LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the morning wave finishes on a windy Thursday, there is big group at the top of the leaderboard that includes the No. 1 player in the world.
Luke Donald, who is bidding to wrest the PGA TOUR money title from Webb Simpson, is among six players shooting 66. Simpson, who played with Donald, is two strokes back in the spirited competition.
“I know for most of the round I played a pretty solid round of golf today,” Donald, who trials by $363,029. “Couple loose shots at the ed. Wasn’t that easy out there. I think the wind was strong enough to make it a little bit tricky with club selection.
“Six birdies, no bogeys is always a good round.”
The last time the money title changed hands in the final week of the season was in 1996 when Tom Lehman overtook Phil Mickelson at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Two of the other leaders have their 2012 PGA TOUR cards at stake. James Driscoll came into the week ranked No. 125 on the money list while Nathan Green is No. 175.
Two of other three players tied at 6 under picked up their first TOUR wins this year – Scott Stallings and Gary Woodland – while Arjun Atwal broke through in Greensboro last season.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The battle for the No. 1 spot on the PGA TOUR money list is off to a good start as Luke Donald and Webb Simpson have made the turn in 4 under and 2 under, respectively.
But another guy who stands to gain a lot at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic is the current leader, James Driscoll, who is playing the Palm Course and is 7 under through 12 holes. He’s one stroke ahead of Kevin Kisner, who is playing the more difficult Magnolia Course.
Driscoll started the week on the bubble for 2012 PGA TOUR cards, holding down the final all-exempt spot at No. 125. He’s $6,287 ahead of Bill Lunde, who still has a year left on his exemption for winning in 2010, and just over $12,000 up on last year’s q-school medalist, veteran Billy Mayfair.
Driscoll, who played at Virginia, is looking for his first PGA TOUR win. His best finish came earlier this year when he fired four rounds in the 60s and placed fifth at the Travelers Championship.
Kisner ranks 197th on the money list so he needs a big week, as well. The Nationwide Tour grad’s best finish of the year came last week at the McGladrey Classic when he tied for 26th.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Just when you thought order was restored, at least for a week, the belly putter craze comes right back to the forefront on the PGA TOUR.
The streak of long putters winning on TOUR ended when Dustin Johnson won The Barclays, the first event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, with a conventional Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Prototype putter.
Before that, Webb Simpson (Wyndham Championship), Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship) and Adam Scott (World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational) all won with belly or full-fledged long putters.
But Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Phil Mickelson dipped his toes into the belly putter waters, putting an Odyssey White Ice Sabertooth (check it out here) into play in the pro-am.
At The Barclays last week, Mickelson said he wasn’t against the long putter movement but also didn’t see it as a quick fix to one’s putting woes, either. Getting putts on-line and at the right speed is still work with any putter.
But still … Phil?
“I might have to see it to believe it,” Scott said Thursday at his Deutsche Bank press conference. “We’ll see I guess. That’s the thing, it’s the fad at the moment, so why not?”
GRAB BAG: When a fad hits the TOUR, here’s an idea of what it looks like on practice days on the putting green.
BLACK PING: Hunter Mahan used a prototype Ping G20 driver at The Barclays, featuring a black-matte finish instead of Ping’s standard gray.
BRIGHT IDEA: Adams Golf showed off a new a12 hybrid at The Barclays for James Driscoll. Unlike other hybrids, the clubhead has a channel in both the sole and crown (“dual velocity slots,” Adams calls them), which the company says allows a larger area of the face to flex as the club and ball meet.
Overnight leader Vaughn Taylor has just teed off in the Reno-Tahoe Open, but he finds himself four shots back of current leader Scott Piercy, who just set the course record in Round 3 with an 11-under 61.
Piercy made a six-foot putt for eagle on the 616-yard closing par-5 to best the previous course record of 62, which had been shot three times (Bill Glasson, 2005; Joe Ogilvie 2006; Parker McLachlin, 2008).
Piercy birdied Nos. 2 though 9 at Montreux, and after birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, the 59 watch was on for the third-year PGA TOUR player. His lone bogey came at No. 17, a 464-yard par-4, effectively ending the threat.
Other big movers in Round 3 include TOUR rookie Jim Renner, who shot a 7-under 65 and is currently in third place. James Driscoll also went low with a 66 to move to 7 under.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- An impromptu lesson from swing coach Sean Foley earlier this year has helped James Driscoll find his game. More importantly a second straight 64 has Driscoll in contention for his first career PGA TOUR victory.
Saturday, Driscoll made eight birdies and just two bogeys, closing in 31, to get to 13 under with one round to go at the Travelers Championship, which is a bit of a home game for the Boston native.
Driscoll had been working on his swing by himself mostly -- though he did work some with Craig Harmon over the winter -- before his caddie, a longtime friend of Foley’s, suggested he get together with the swing coach. Foley changed Driscoll’s ball position and the weight distribution in his stance, which was too far forward, according to Driscoll.
The result? A tie for eighth at the HP Byron Nelson Championship a week later.
“I felt like I was searching for a while,” Driscoll said.
Clearly he found something and now is in position to make a run at his first career win, something many expected would be a foregone conclusion after Driscoll reached the final of the 2000 U.S. Amateur.
“Sometimes I replay it with me having won,” Driscoll joked. “Hopefully it’s not my career highlight.”
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- While others are struggling in the 35-mph winds, James Driscoll found the solution in shooting a 4-under 66 in Sunday's final round: Just hit solid golf shots.
"If you hit the ball solid, the wind is not going to affect it as much," Driscoll said after his round, which is currently the low round of the weekend. "... If you don't hit it on the center of the clubface, it's going to take you off the planet."
Driscoll was a bogey-free 5 under through his first 12 holes Sunday before dropping a stroke at the 17th. Still, he was fired up about his round, which had him inside the top 20 on the leaderboard. If he holds his position, it will be his best finish in four months.
"The round could've been 3 or 4 lower without much difficulty," Driscoll said. "But I'm psyched about the round. 4 under in this wind is pretty darn good."
Asked what the leaders can expect to see down the stretch Sunday, Driscoll said there would be no surprises.
"It's been the same wind the last couple of days, so they know exactly what to expect," he said. "It's the same south wind coming at 35 mph.
“It's like Groundhog Day. It's all the same shots the last three days. They know exactly what they're getting into.
“The first 12-13 holes are scoreable; the last five, you've got to man up and hit some golf shots. But if you hit good shots, there's no reason why you can't par every hole."
James Driscoll's chance at the elusive 59 evaporated Thursday when he made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8 at Trump International in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
But Driscoll still owns the lead at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com after shooting a 9-under 63. Will MacKenzie is two strokes behind at 7 under.
Prior to those dropped shots, Driscoll had been flawless.
Starting his round on the back nine, he made six birdies, including four straight as he made the turn, to shoot 30.
The hot streak continued on the front nine as Driscoll birdied the first three holes to make it seven birdies in a row. An eagle at the par-5 fifth hole really set the 59 watch in full swing.
At that point, he was 11 under with four holes to play at the par-72 course. He needed two more birdies in that span … but it was not meant to be.
Still, his streak of seven consecutive birdies is the second-longest this year. Chris Stroud put together eight straight birdies in the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun.
Driscoll's round of 63 is one stroke off his career low shot in the fourth round of the 2009 Valero Texas Open. He finished second there, which is the best performance of his PGA TOUR career. The 63 marks just the second time Driscoll has broken 70 in nine rounds this season.
On the PGA TOUR this season, it’s the 14th round of 63 or better. In terms of relation to par, Driscoll’s 9 under total has been matched or exceeded just eight other times this year ( see chart below).
LOWEST ROUNDS IN 2011 (IN RELATION TO PAR)
|Relative to Par||Score||Player||Tournament||Round|
|11 under||62||Graeme McDowell||Hyundai Tournament of Champions||4|
|10 under||62||Bill Haas||Bob Hope Classic||4|
|10 under||62||Brian Gay||Bob Hope Classic||5|
|10 under||63||Robert Garrigus||Hyundai Tournament of Champions||2|
|9 under||64||Ernie Els||Hyundai Tournament of Champions||2|
|9 under||62||Rickie Fowler||Waste Management Phoenix Open||2|
|9 under||63||Derek Lamely||Bob Hope Classic||1|
|9 under||63||Nick Watney||Farmers Insurance Open||4|
|9 under||63||James Driscoll||Puerto Rico Open||1|
James Driscoll is working on a career low – and possibly the magical 59 – Thursday at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com. He’s currently leading at 11 under through 14 holes.
Driscoll started on the back nine and made a couple of early birdies at the 12th and 13th holes. He really got untracked at No. 15, though, and birdied his last four holes to turn in 30.
Three more birdies followed to start the front nine. He just eagled No. 11 and has two par 4s and two par 3s remaining. To follow the rest of Driscoll’s round, click here.
Driscoll’s career low is a 62 he shot in the fourth round of the 2009 Valero Texas Open. He finished second there, which is the best of his career.
The cut line currently stands at 3 under. That’s not good news for Todd Hamilton, who is one off that mark after a second straight 71. Hamilton, 210th on the money list, needed to win to secure a card for next season and avoid q-school.
James Driscoll and Troy Merritt, among others, are also in precarious positions on the wrong side of the cut. Driscoll came into the week 154th in money, while Merritt is 121st and both would likely drop into unenviable positions by missing the cut.
Merritt also has a lot at stake in the Kodak Challenge. He’s currently tied for the lead and should he miss the cut today (and not birdie the par-4 17th) would almost certainly be in a playoff for the $1 million prize, unless Rickie Fowler or Aaron Baddeley were to eagle the hole. -- Brian Wacker