Roberto Castro makes a tap-in birdie at the 17th hole on Thursday.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A 4-footer for eagle at the second hole, his 11th of the day, has give Roberto Castro sole possession of the lead Thursday morning in his first PLAYERS Championship.
Castro shot a 31 on the back nine that included birdies on the final three holes -- a stretch that has been nicknamed "The Gauntlet." He two-putted for birdie from 65 feet at the par-5 16th, then tapped in for another from 19 inches at No.17 and from 23 inches at No. 18.
Casey Wittenberg, last year's Web.com Tour player of the year, is along in second at 6 under. He shot 33 on the front and has birdied three of his first four holes on the front nine.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who has never broken par at TPC Sawgrass, is tied for third at 5 under with his playing partner, Steve Stricker. Click here to "Follow this group" -- PGATOUR.COM is streaming every hole of their round.
Jason Kokrak and Scott Stallings, who started the day with five straight birdies, are 4 under and there are 10 players another stroke behind, including Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and former PLAYERS champ Henrik Stenson.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Is TPC Scottsdale ripe for another run at a 59 on Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open?
Bo Van Pelt got things rolling when he shot the magic number in the pro-am, then Phil Mickelson thrilled the crowd on Thursday when he had chances on the final two holes to post the sixth 59 in PGA TOUR history.
Watching to see if history is made for a third straight day is probably too much to ask. But Keegan Bradley had visions dancing in our heads when he played his first seven holes in 5 under with an eagle and three birdies.
Bradley, who started on the back nine, ended up making the turn in 31. He's moved to 9 under and is tied with Robert Garrigus, two strokes off the current lead held by Mickelson, who tees off at 2:16 p.m. ET.
Robero Castro, who is also making a move on the back, is one stroke behind Mickelson after playing his first seven holes in 4 under. Jeff Maggert, Angel Cabrera Ryan Moore and John Rollins are all on the course at 8 under, as well.
TPC Scottsdale played to an average of 69.015 -- nearly two strokes under par in the first round.
Davis Love III withdrew prior to his second round with a nagging neck injury. He shot a first-round 72.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The Coachella Valley is bathed in sunshine Sunday morning as the leaders of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation get set for the final round on the Palmer Private Course.
Scott Stallings owns a five-stroke advantage over Roberto Castro, Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, John Rollins and Charley Hoffman. Stallings, who did not make a bogey in his first 54 holes, is looking for his third PGA TOUR win in 58 starts.
Four of the five players tied for second are trying to end lengthy victory droughts while Castro is seeking his first win. Howell's last victory came in 2007, Cink and Rollins last won in 2009 and Hoffman is seeking his first since the 2010 FedExCup Playoffs.
The deficit is admittedly daunting. But over the first three rounds, the Palmer Course averaged nearly two-and-a-half strokes under par and the course gave up a 59 to David Duval when he won the tournament in 1999. Stallings and Cink both shot 66s the first time they played the Palmer this week while Howell and Castro had 67s and Rollins shot 70.
Cink, who lives in Atlanta, used today's NFL playoff game between the Falcons and San Francisco 49ers to size up Sunday's competition.
"The Falcons are about a four-and-a-half point underdog, and does that translate into a five-shot deficit?" he said. "I'm probably a 14-point underdog tomorrow with a five-shot deficit. So I think I have a bigger challenge than they do.
"They have Matt Ryan. I don't have another person to be my quarterback tomorrow. I have to be my own quarterback and receiver."
Should the 27-year-old Stallings go on to win, he would become the third player in his 20s to win in the first three TOUR events of 2013. The last time that happened was in 1977 (Jerry Pate/Phoenix Open, Bruce Lietzke/Tucson Open and Tom Watson/Bing Crosby National Pro-Am). Tom Watson also won the fourth week on TOUR in 1977 at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational.
Stallings would also become the sixth player under the age of 30 with three of more TOUR wins, joining Dustin Johnson (7), Rory McIlroy (6), Anthony Kim (3), Webb Simpson (3) and Keegan Bradley (3). He'd also get a second straight trip to the Masters.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro reeled off three straight birdies on the front nine at La Quinta Saturday and has opened a two-stroke advantage in the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Scott Stallings, who has made a birdie and an eagle in his first six holes on the Nicklaus Course, is alone in second at 16 under. Darron Stiles, Ricky Barnes and Kevin Stadler, whose father Craig won this tournament in 1980, are another stroke behind.
Stewart Cink, who has gone back to a more fundamental approach with his swing after a lackluster 2012 campaign, heads a group of seven players tied at 14 under. Also in that logjam are James Hahn, who held a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman, Greg Chalmers, rookie David Lingmerth and Jason Kokrak.
With the cut looming Saturday afternoon, there are currently 78 players at 8 under or better. The number does not include four-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who has birdied two of his first three holes at the Palmer Course and is 7 under for the tournament.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro had a solid, if not spectacular rookie season in 2012.
He advanced to the second round of the FedExCup Playoffs and earned more than $755,000, which is hardly chump change. Along the way, the Georgia Tech grad kept his nose down and his eyes open, and the lessons he learned could pay dividends this week at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Castro opened with a career-low 63 that gave him a share of the first-round lead. He followed that up with a 67 at the Palmer Private course on a sun-drenched Friday to stay on top of the leaderboard, tied with PGA TOUR rookie James Hahn, one stroke ahead of the pack, despite a pair of bogeys in his last three holes.
"I played well all day," Castro said. "Some nice up-and-downs on the par fives for birdies, a couple slipped away there at the end, but yesterday I made a 50-footer on the last on a good putt. Today I felt like I hit a good putt and three-putted. So that's stuff over 72 holes that's going to even out."
Castro made the cut in six of his first seven starts a year ago, including a tie for 42nd here in the desert. The opportunity to play four rounds with regularity so early in his career didn't just help him get comfortable on the courses, Castro also took the opportunity to watch how his veteran playing partners handled themselves.
"When you play with guys when they're not leading and see what their habits are, you kind of see how that carries over when they are in contention, so I definitely learned that," Castro said. "And then the game plan this year, just try to have the same attitude I had last year, which was very grateful to be out here and keep a good perspective."
So which players impressed Castro the most? Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson -- players who have a similar studied approach to the game. Interestingly, Johnson sits two strokes behind Castro through 36 holes this week.
"I played with Stricker in Houston on Sunday and we were in 35th place to start the day," Castro recalled. "And he made a couple early bogeys and he made a couple late birdies and he was in 35th place probably on the 18th tee. And he was just grinding on that tee shot.
"And for a guy who finishes like third every week it was a meaningless week for him basically. But you could just see that he does the same thing every time. ... So I think about that all the time."
Not that anything he saw was particularly eye-opening. "It was just reinforcing that you are kind of on the right path, this is what these guys do, and they win tournaments," Castro said. "So keep on keeping on."
The former Tech All-American, who had two uncles and two younger brothers who played college golf, has also benefitted from picking the brain of his aunt, Jenny Lidback, who played the LPGA TOUR for 15 years. He used to spend spring break at her home in Scottsdale and they played together as often as their schedules permitted.
"Really for all through junior golf and a lot of college golf, we would talk on the phone a good bit," Castro said. "And she really, I think you heard Keegan say that about his aunt too, trying to win a tournament's the same no matter what TOUR you're on. And college golf especially, great experiences there. So she's had a big role in my golf."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- A year ago, Roberto Castro had modest goals when he played in the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
After all, the popular stop in the desert was just the second event in Castro's rookie year. He wanted to stay patient, and he felt if he could just break par for each nine he would be "hanging in there."
But Castro, who ended up tying for 42nd in 2012, has a different mindset this year. You've got to "get it going and keep it going," Castro learned, and that's exactly what he's done over the first two rounds.
Castro played the Palmer Private Course on Friday and shot 67 that enabled him to maintain a share of the lead with James Hahn, who shot the same score at La Quinta. Both players had opened with rounds of 63, as did Jason Kokrak.
Scott Stallings and Darron Stiles, who both played La Quinta, and Richard H. Lee, who birdied the last hole at the Palmer Course, are all one shot off the lead after rounds of 65. Kokrak is among nine players tied at 12 under, two strokes off the pace.
Joining Kokrak in a tie for sixth are rookies Lee Williams and David Lingmerth, Zach Johnson, Kevin Stadler, Charles Howell III, Greg Chalmers, Charley Hoffman and Aaron Baddeley. The best rounds among that group came from Lingmerth, who shot 8 under, and Williams and Howell, who shot 65s -- all on the Nicklaus Course.
Russell Henley, last week's winner who only had three bogeys in the first 90 holes of his rookie campaign, had a more adventurous round on Friday but remains in contention at 11 under. Henley had four birdies and an eagle in the second round but also dropped three shots to par.
The cut will be made on Saturday after everyone has played each of the three courses. Phil Mickelson, who is tied for 91st, still has some work to do -- although his round of 67 was five strokes better than his opener and a definite step in the right direction.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro, who leads the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, has just made the turn as the second round continues.
Castro, who opened with a 63, shot 4 under on the back nine of the Palmer Private course and now stands 13 under for the tournament. He's two strokes ahead of rookies Lee Williams and Russell Henley, who won last week's Sony Open in Hawaii.
Williams is playing the Nicklaus Course and is 6 under through 11 holes. The red-hot Henley is through eight holes on the Palmer Course and is 3 under for the day.
The other players in double figures at 10 under are overnight co-leaders Jason Kokrak and James Hahn, Kevin Stadler, Ricky Barnes, Scott Stallings and Charley Hoffman.
Phil Mickelson continues to battle after opening with a round of even par. He's played 12 holes on the Nicklaus course in 4 under after making six birdies, two bogeys and four pars.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Don't look now but Robert Garrigus is cllmbing the leaderboard at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Garrigus, you might remember, tied for second at last year's tournament in the desert -- one of four runner-up finishes he had in PGA TOUR events last year. He also tied for second in Malaysia.
Garrigus, who is making his 2013 debut at the Humana Challange, started on the back nine at La Quinta on Friday and has gone birdie-eagle-birdie to move to 10 under. He's tied with overnight co-leader, Jason Kokrak, and the two are one shot off the lead.
Roberto Castro and James Hahn, who were the other two first-round pacesetters, have played five and four holes, respectively, and are both 2 under for the day and 11 under for the tournament. Castro is playing the Palmer Course at PGA West while Hahn is at La Quinta.
Russell Henley, last week's stunning rookie winner at the Sony Open in Hawaii, continues to play well. He's 1 under through four holes at the Palmer Course and tied with Ryan Palmer and Greg Chalmers at 9 under.
Phil Mickelson, who struggled with his putter and shot even par on Thursday, is giving himself a shot at playing the entire weekend. He's on the Nicklaus Course and has birdied four of his first seven holes to move to 4 under, which is currently tied for 62nd. The cut will be made on Saturday after everyone has played each of the three courses in the rotation.
Roberto Castro, Jason Kokrak and James Hahn
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The youth movement continued on Thursday during the opening round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation as one PGA TOUR rookie and two in their sophomore seasons claimed shares of the lead at 9 under.
James Hahn, who is playing in just his third TOUR event, fired his 63 on the Palmer Course at PGA West, which is generally considered the most challenging of the three courses used in the rotation. Roberto Castro's came on the Nicklaus course while Jason Kokrak shot 9 under at La Quinta.
Russell Henley, the rookie who won last week's Sony Open in Hawaii, showed no signs of slowing down, either, as he heads a group of four players at 8 under. He's tied with Greg Chalmers, Doug Labelle and Aaron Baddeley, who finished birdie-eagle on the Palmer course.
"I'm feeling very confident," said Henley, who set the tone when he hit the pin for eagle on the first hole. "I definitely wasn't going to be upset either way. I feel like of how my score went, I think that's the last thing I want to do is waste any energy and be emotional right now. I think I got to conserve all my emotions and my energy as much as I can so I can play another full golf tournament."
Henley's fellow rookie, Hahn, blistered the front nine of the Palmer Course with a 30 on the way to his 63. He chipped in twice for birdies -- the first time he'd holed two like that since he was 9 years old.
"For me it was just fairways, greens, and then trying to make a putt," Hahn said. "I think a lot of the times, we as professionals, try to take in too much information. That's not necessary, what it is to the water on the left or how far to carry this particular tree, and for me some of my best rounds have come from not even seeing golf course for the first time.
"So for me it's a little bit of an advantage, it gives me tunnel vision, I don't want to know or I don't have the information of how far the trouble is, I just know fairway, green, and try and make a putt."
Kokrak, who averaged 304 yards off the tee last season, played the par 5s at La Quinta in 4 under on the strength of two eagles. He birdied his first hole and then eagled his second to get things going and didn't drop a shot to par.
"The course over at La Quinta is in great shape," Kokrak said. "Greens are not overly fast, so you can be somewhat aggressive out there. The greens are holding. So you can be aggressive with the iron shots out there."
Castro and the other pro in his group, Daniel Summerhays, fed off each other in the first round. Summerhays is among a group of nine players who are tied at 65, two strokes off the pace.
"I got off to a good start, I birdied the first two with kick-ins, basically," Castro said. "And then just played well after that. Didn't make any long putts until the 18th hole I rolled in like a 40, 50 footer. .. So this tournament you kind of got to get it going and keep it going. We both got it going early, which was good."
Thursday was a perfect day for scoring in the desert and all but 22 of the 156 players in the field broke par. Among those with ground to make up are reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who opened with a 73; former PGA champ David Toms, who had a 75; and and defending champion Mark Wilson, who shot 77.
Two-time Humana champ Phil Mickelson shot even par 72 at La Quinta in his 2013 debut.
All three courses played well under par 72 with the Nicklaus course the easiest at 68.231. The Palmer course clocked in at 69.712 while La Quinta was 69.769.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
For those players currently not inside the top 70 in FedExCup points, this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston represents a last chance to move up and secure a spot at the third stop in the Playoffs, next week’s BMW Championship.
Here’s a closer look at five players who I think could move from outside the top 70 in the FedExCup standings to inside the top 70 and advance to Crooked Stick. Fill out the form below and let me know if you agree or disagree with my picks.
Charl Schwartzel (No. 71): The biggest reason I think Schwartzel moves on? He’s just one spot outside the magic number. The South African doesn’t have much of a Playoffs history -- last year was his one and only year in it -- but he’s missed just one cut since April. If that trend continues, he should move up at least one spot and advance. Three of Schwartzel’s last four finishes have been in the top 25.
Roberto Castro (No. 80): The 27-year-old already busted the bubble once, tying for 24th at The Barclays to move up 20 spots in the FedExCup standings and advance to TPC Boston. Prior to that, the rookie had missed his last three cuts. But in the two starts before that, he finished seventh and 18th. More to like about Castro: He’s 19th in total driving and 13th in greens in regulation.
Charley Hoffman (No. 86): After missing his fourth consecutive cut last week, Hoffman fell from 67th to 86th. On the bright side, a return trip to TPC Boston should conjure up some good memories and hopefully good play. Hoffman won the Deutsche Bank Championship two years ago and earlier this year he finished second at the nearby Travelers Championship. Whatever the reason, the Californian seems to play well in the New England area.
Jason Day (No. 88): Like Castro, he tied for 24th at The Barclays to make it to the Deutsche Bank Championship. Last year, Day tied for third at TPC Boston. Of course he was also playing a lot better then, too. The Aussie has good history there, however, tying for second in 2010 and 19th the year before.
Jonas Blixt (No. 97): A rib injury derailed what was a successful rookie campaign for Bilxt, who was sidelined two months. Prior to getting hurt, Blixt had strung together three straight top 10s at the Wells Fargo Championship, HP Byron Nelson Championship and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. He also tied for 13th at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. He’ll need a similar performance to advance, but as one of the game’s best putters he certainly has a chance.
MORE DEUTSCHE BANK: Bubble busters in first five years at TPC Boston | FedExCup standings