Check out the top five shots of the week from the 2012 PLAYERS Championship featuring highlights from Tim Clark, Brian Gay, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, and Jhonattan Vegas.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The early reports are in from the opening round of the Masters and as expected Augusta National is playing “soft.”
That’s not to be confused with easy, however.
“The greens are soft but the pins are in some tough positions,” said Brendan Steele, who was in the first group off at 7:50 a.m. ET.
Steele struggled in the first round of his first Masters, shooting a 4-over 76 that included a stretch of four straight birdies on the back nine. He went out in even par but closed in 40.
“It’s really easy for the round to get away from you,” said Steele, who turned 29 Thursday. “I don’t even really know what happened.”
Steele added that mud could be an issue and noted two mud balls he had, including on the par-5 13th, where after a good drive he decided to lay up because mud was on his ball. He went on to make bogey.
Tim Clark, meanwhile, is playing in his first Masters since 2010 after undergoing season-ending wrist surgery last year.
Likewise, Clark, who shot 73, thought Augusta National was playing soft and would favor the long hitters.
“I almost spun one in the water on 15, which I wasn’t expecting,” Clark said. “It’s going to play tough for the guys who lay up.”
As for Clark’s wrist, he said he feels good in what is just his fourth start of the season.
Clark, who missed the cut in his first two and was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard at Bay Hill two weeks ago, said he’s finally able to practice full time.
“Today was the first time I hit some decent shots and made some good putts,” Clark said. “Coming here is going to bring out the best in you.”
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The way Tim Clark saw it, he had passed the test.
Sure, he shot 82 on Friday and finished at the bottom of the leaderboard at the Northern Trust Open. But Clark played – teeing it up for the first time since a nagging elbow injury forced him to withdraw from THE PLAYERS Championship last May. In his title defense, no less.
And that, in itself, was a small victory for Clark, who had surgery in August to repair the tendon he tore in his right elbow in Hawaii last year.
"I wasn't proud of my score," he acknowledged Friday. "It got a bit frustrating at times. But I had to realize, listen, it's been eight months since I've played. That was to be expected."
Clark knew he had to come out and would likely "get beat up a little bit," he said. His next tournament will be the Transitions Championship and he knows now the areas he needs to shore up.
"It's tough," Clark said. "Obviously, you come to poa annua greens, and it's a different beast. I just couldn't get it in the hole. And there were other things, the touch, the feel shots from 70 to 80 yards. But in terms of driving the ball and full iron shots, it was as good as it was before.
"I didn't know what exactly to expect. The fact that I could get through 18 holes without having any pain is quite nice."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
There are only two weeks left for players outside the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking to qualify for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship Feb 22-26 in Marana, Ariz. In other words, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington, among others, have some work to do.
Singh and Harrington are 69th and 90th, respectively, and in need of strong performances in one or more likely both of the next two weeks. Singh is in the field for this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, while Harrington has the week off.
Last year, Singh also failed to qualify.
Other notables on the outside looking in include Sean O’Hair (68th), Sony Open in Hawaii winner Johnson Wagner (70th) and last year’s Wells Fargo Championship winner Lucas Glover, who is 77th in the world and has yet to play this year after withdrawing from the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a knee injury.
The player currently on the bubble at No. 64 is the Netherlands’ Joost Luiten. However with Phil Mickelson having already said that he plans to take that week off, the field would then extend to the 65th player in the world -- currently Rory Sabbatini.
Also among those outside the top 64: Kyle Stanley. The hard-luck loser of the Farmers Insurance Open is 87th in the world. Had he won at Torrey Pines, he would have moved up to 64th.
Others in more dire circumstances include Branden Grace, a two-time winner on the European Tour this year who has only climbed to 93rd; Camilo Villegas (99th); Anthony Kim (102nd); and Stewart Cink (138th).
Only once in Cink’s career has he failed to qualify for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Champisonhip, a tournament he’s been dominant in with six trips to at least the quarterfinals. On four of those occasions Cink reached at least the semifinals, including from 2008 to 2010 when he finished second, third and tied for fifth.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Tim Clark is recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right elbow.
The surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Graham on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at the Cleveland Clinic. The former PLAYERS champion said in a telephone interview on Friday that he hopes to be hitting balls in about three months and he expects to be ready for the 2012 season.
"The main thing is getting the strength back," Clark said. "I could reinjure it if I tried to start playing too soon."
Clark first felt the pain in his elbow the morning after he tied for second at the Sony Open in Hawaii, playing 36 holes on Sunday. He had taken the red-eye home and when he woke up the next morning "it was just killing me."
Clark had hoped that rest and therapy would cure what was originally thought to be a case of tennis elbow. But an MRI six weeks ago revealed that the tear was worse than it had been in January, so Clark opted for the surgery.
"The toughest part was obviously the majors, missing playing the majors and some of the big events," Clark said. "That's why I played the Masters and PLAYERS, even though I probably shouldn't have."
Clark ended up missing the cut at the Masters, shooting consecutives 73s, and he had to withdraw from THE PLAYERS after shooting 74. In all, Clark played in just four events this year.
Clark, who currently is ninth in the International Team standings, will also miss competing in The Presidents Cup for the fourth time. But he told Captain Greg Norman he'd be glad to help in any way he could, and the Aussie took Clark up on his offer -- naming him as one of his assistant captains.
"Obviously, it's always a goal of mine to play my way onto the team," Clark said. "It is such a fun event and something I certainly have enjoyed a lot. When I realized we would have to do surgery, it was a huge disappointment. But I wanted to help, so I told them if they needed me in any way shape or form, I would be available.
"Greg and (assistant captain) Frank (Nobilo) spoke about it. I was extremely honored that Greg would think of me in that light. Playing for him at Harding Park (in 2009) was great. He's a great captain and hopefully I can bring something a little different to the table."
By the time he gets to Royal Melbourne in November, Clark hopes to be doing strengthening exercises and maybe even chipping and putting. He's been going to the gym doing other exercises to increase his flexibility and expects to be in a soft cast late next week.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Defending PLAYERS champion Tim Clark just withdrew after 10 holes here in the second round, citing an elbow injury.
He was 2 over in the second round after shooting 74 Thursday. THE PLAYERS was just his fourth tournament of the 2011 season.
Clark has been suffering from tendonitis in the elbow since a runner-up finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This was his first start since last month’s Masters where he shot two 73s and missed the cut.
Clark still plans to stick around for Sunday's ceremony to crown the new PLAYERS champion. He said he wouldn’t have tried to play if it weren’t THE PLAYERS and the first title defense of the South African’s career.
“It’s been getting better for sure over the last couple weeks, but I had to test it out, see where I was, and it's not good enough to go right now,” Clark said. “I do feel like it's still going to progress and get better, so I'm hoping to be back obviously as soon as possible.”
Clark said he was disappointed at having to pull out, especially since he was "pain free" during Thursday's first round. The more shots he hit Friday, though, the more intense the pain.
"It's just been getting a little worse as the day went on,” Clark said. “I hit a shot out of the rough on 9, and I could feel it getting worse. There's just no point in staying. I tried as good as I can for two days.
“At the moment it's starting to get a little worse. I can see it's swollen right now, and there's no point.”
Clark won’t be playing in next week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, as planned., either. He had tied for second there twice in the last three years.
“II can't finish two rounds here, how am I going to finish two there?” Clark said. “But I'm going to go to Fort Worth and continue treatment with the guys. I'm just going to stay on top of it. I
“I can't get too despondent and down on myself. It has been getting better, which is a good sign, so I'm going to try and stay positive and keep working at it.”
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Defending champion Tim Clark's first round of golf in more than a month went about like he expected.
Some good, some bad. Some pain, some progress.
Clark shot 2-over 74 in Thursday’s opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship, a mostly trouble-free day that came as the South African tries to return from an elbow injury so severe he went three months without playing and only teed it up at the Masters in April because he was stubborn. He had rounds of 73-73 and missed the cut.
He felt considerably better at TPC Sawgrass.
"For the most part, it's getting better, so I'm encouraged by that," said Clark, the tournament's defending champion. "It's better than I expected it would be two weeks ago. If you asked me two weeks ago, I didn't even know if I would be able to play. So it's improved a lot."
Clark was runner-up at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, but upon returning home noticed a problem in his elbow. Despite pain, he played in the Masters, but only because it's a major. He took out his clubs Saturday for the first time since Augusta and returned to defend his lone PGA TOUR victory.
"You've got to at some point test it to see where you're at," he said. "You've got to come out and play. There's always a possibility that by actually playing and doing stuff that it gets better. At some point I would have started to play and this just kind of fit right around the right sort of time."
He made two birdies and four bogeys Thursday, and had one club slip out of his hands. After hitting his tee shot on the par-3 No. 13, the club soared from his grip.
"You've got to hit a divot and dig it in," he said. "It wasn't a massive amount of pain, but I'm cautious of it. I'm scared to dig it in."
He ended up 50 feet left of the hole and made par. It was one of several awkward-feeling shots during the round.
"Every now and then, I have a good swing and it feels good," said Clark, who hasn't decided whether he will play in next week's tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. "But there's a few swings that hurt." – Associated Press