By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Tom Gillis has played all over the world -- 26 countries to be exact -- in a career that dates back to 1990. Sunday, he’ll be trying for his first career victory on the PGA TOUR as he enters the final round of The Honda Classic two shots back of leader Rory McIlroy after a third-round 69.
For a guy who has never even played in the final group on Sunday much less won, Gillis, who lives in nearby Jupiter, seems awfully relaxed. And you don’t travel the world as much as Gillis has without coming away with a few stories.
One in particular Gillis recalled involved a pair of tennis shoes that went missing during the 1993 Jamaican Open.
“There was no locker room so you put your shoes in your bag,” said Gillis, who used a local caddie that week. “I got down to the lobby of the hotel and my shoes were gone. I'm thinking, geez, the guy stole my tennis shoes. I mean, who else had the bag?
“I was all mad, I'm like, that's it, I'm firing this guy, he's done.”
But as Gillis’ friend and college roommate pointed out, that caddie helped Gillis make a few 30 and 40-foot putts that day, so he kept the caddie and went on to win the tournament.
Saturday, that same caddie, who has since become friends with Gillis, was in the crowd at The Honda Classic.
”He was from Kingston and it was a very tough area and it was more of a survival thing,” Gillis said. “I look back, and the guy had to do it. He needed them worse than I needed them.”
Thanks to a few lengthy putts this week -- Gillis has made four from over 25 feet -- and mostly mistake-free golf with just two bogeys, Gillis finally has a chance for another win on a much bigger stage.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Twice before on the PGA TOUR Rory McIlroy has led after 54 holes. The last time came at the U.S. Open and you saw how that turned out.
Thanks to a 4-under 66 Saturday at a windswept PGA National, McIlroy holds a two-shot advantage over Harris English and Tom Gillis entering the final round of The Honda Classic, where he seems poised to win for the first time since the historic performance at Congressional Country Club nine months ago.
“I have to just try and focus on what I've been trying to do all week, which is hit fairways and hit greens,” McIlroy said. “Really stay in the present, stay in the moment and not think about everything else that could happen.”
Should McIlroy win, he would moved to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Gillis, meanwhile, is just looking for victory No. 1 in a career that has spanned more than two decades for the 43-year-old.
A native of nearby Jupiter, Fla., Gillis shot a 1-under 69 Saturday. He’s made just two bogeys all week.
English has won before. His lone victory came on the Nationwide Tour last year when he was an amateur and still in school at the University of Georgia. After a 66 Saturday, he has a chance to cash his first winners’ check.
Three others, including Justin Rose and Brian Harman, who torched the course record with a 61 in the second round, are two more shots back at 7 under but certainly not out of it.
If Tiger Woods, who is playing in The Honda Classic for the first time in his professional career, is going to win he’s going to need something spectacular. Woods is seven shots back and tied for 18th after a 69 on Saturday.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The third round is under way at PGA National, where it’s again breezy but conditions seem to be good for scoring, at least based on some of the early numbers being put up.
Here’s a look at the top of the leaderboard to set up moving day:
Tom Gillis (68-64 -- 8 under)
This is Gillis’ fifth career start in The Honda Classic, where his best finish was a tie for 17th in 2010. The 43-year-old resident of nearby Jupiter has never won on the PGA TOUR, or even led for that matter. His closest was a third-place finish at last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Justin Rose (66-66 -- 8 under)
Rose is a three-time winner on the TOUR with all three of those victories having come in the last two seasons. He’s held at least a share of a 36-hole lead nine times -- the last two resulted in wins at the 2010 AT&T National and 2011 BMW Championship. Should Rose hang on for the win, he would become the fifth consecutive international player to win The Honda Classic -- the last American to win it was Mark Wilson in 2007. Americans, however, have won every week on TOUR this season.
Rory McIlroy (66-67 -- 7 under)
A week after losing to Hunter Mahan in the finals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, McIlroy is in contention again. This is by far his best opportunity to win here, though, with a tie for 13th in 2009 his best finish here.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- A year ago, 9 under was the winning score at The Honda Classic. Friday, rookie Brian Harman matched that number to shatter the course record with a 61 at PGA National, where he is two shots back of leaders Tom Gillis and Justin Rose.
On an ideal day for scoring, several players went low, including Gillis, who matched the previous course record with a 64 to leave himself in a tie with Rose atop the leaderboard at 8 under.
“It was as easy as I've ever seen it today,” said Gillis, who lives in nearby Jupiter, Fla., and has played the course several times before.
Even as the wind increased in the afternoon wave, players were still going low. Rose finished late in the day but still managed a 4-under 66.
Ditto Rory McIlroy, who is one shot back after a 67 Friday.
McIlroy was largely mistake-free with just one bogey among four birdies, including three over his final five holes.
“This golf course can make average golf look like very bad golf very suddenly,” McIlroy said. “This course isn't about making tons of birdies. It's about keeping the big numbers off your card.”
Plenty of players seemed able to do that with the cut coming at 1 over. Last year, the cut was 6 over.
Among those who will be around for the weekend: Tiger Woods. He carded a 2-under 68 in an up-and-down round that included five birdies, one bogey and one double bogey.
Woods is 1 under heading into the weekend.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Friday’s second round of The Honda Classic is in the books at PGA National. See below for news, notes and more.
SECOND-ROUND UPDATES (all times ET)
6 p.m.: The second round is winding down at The Honda Classic, where Tom Gillis and Justin Rose lead at 8 under. To put that in perspective, 9 under won this tournament a year ago. The cut is also just 1 over for what is typically one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR. But with players playing ball-in-hand in the opening round because of soft conditions, and little wind either morning, scores have been better. This would be the lowest cut at The Honda Classic since its move to PGA National. The cut last year was 6 over.
5:28 p.m.: Justin Rose closed his round with a par on the ninth hole, giving him a second consecutive 66 and a tie for the lead with Tom Gillis at 8-under par.
5:25 p.m.: Rory McIlroy birdied the par-5 18th hole to close out a round of 67, putting him at 7 under and currently one shot off the lead.
5:05 p.m.: Justin Rose has fallen back into a tie for the lead after consecutive bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7. He parred the par-4 eighth hole and has the par-4 ninth remaining in his round.
4:20 p.m.: Justin Rose now has the lead to himself after a birdie on the par-5 third -- he started on the back -- to get to 5 under on the day and 9 under for the week. Rose has been flawless on a breezy Friday afternoon with five birdies and zero bogeys. He’s now gone 29 straight holes without a bogey and continues to lead the field in greens in regulation at 84 percent.
3:30 p.m.: Justin Rose still has just one bogey -- a double-bogey on the second hole of the first round to be exact -- this week at PGA National, where he’s now tied for the lead at 8 under after turning in 31 on the back nine this afternoon. Rose leads the field in greens hit and is third in fairways . This is just the third stroke-play start of the year for Rose, whose best finish was a tie for 13th in L.A.
3 p.m.: The afternoon wave is on the golf course, which means they’re all playing catch-up to Tom Gillis. Justin Rose and overnight leader Davis Love III are both just a shot back with Rose playing his first eight holes in 3 under and Love his first seven in 1 under. Rory McIlroy is also 1 unde and just made the turn after one birdie and eight pars on the front nine.
2:10 p.m.: Brian Harman, who wasn’t even even in the field as the first alternate on Monday, on nearly shooting 59 before finishing with a course-record 61 Friday: “Just to have a chance to do something special like that is really humbling and pretty cool,” Harman said. “I just got it rolling today. It was one of those days where everything bounced my way and I made a lot of putts.”
1:44 p.m.: The 59 watch ended for Brian Harman when he missed on holing a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 18th. His birdie attempt from five feet slid past the cup and the rookie settled for par and a 9-under 61 -- three shots better than the previous course record. He's two behind leader Tom Gillis.
1:25 p.m.: Brian Harman makes a routine par from the back fringe on the par-3 17th. He's headed to the par-5 18th where a par shatters the course record by three shots. Click here to track Harman on No. 18.
1:11 p.m.: There's no slowing down Harman. ANOTHER birdie on 16 after rolling in his putt from 13 feet 4 inches. He's now 9-under for the day, with eight birdies and an eagle.
1:00 p.m.: Make that 8-under for rookie Brian Harman. He hit his tee shot on 15 to 2 feet 5 inches and sank the birdie putt. Current course record is 64, which was tied yesterday by Davis Love III and today by Tom Gillis.
12:50 p.m.: Brian Harman is flirting with a course record. He jump started his round, going birdie-birdie-eagle on the first three holes. With a birdie on the 14th, he's 7-under for the day, but he still has the Bear Trap to get through.
12:30 p.m.: Tiger Woods closed what had been a fairly unimpressive second round with two very clutch birdies on 8 and 9 for a 68. He had a putt from 6 feet five inches on 8 and a putt from 11 feet on 9. He's now 1 under for the week, and safely inside the cutline.
11:30 a.m.: Jupiter resident Tom Gillis shot a course record-tying 64 Friday and as a result leads at 8 under here at PGA National. This is a home game for Gillis, who lives in Jupiter and was flawless in the second round with eight birdies and no bogeys. The biggest reason Gillis is where he is? He had 11 one-putts.
11 a.m.: The up and down day for Tiger Woods took a decided turn down on the par-3 fifth, where Woods rinsed his tee shot and made double bogey. That drops him to even on the round and 1 over for the tournament. The latter puts him squarely on the fence of the cut line, which is currently right at 1 under. Meanwhile, Tom Gillis continues to lead at 7 under as he finishes his round on the 18th now. Overnight leader Davis Love III will tee off at 1 p.m., while Rory McIlroy will go off 30 minutes earlier at 12:30 p.m.
10:30 a.m.: The second round of The Honda Classic is in full swing, and a new leader has emerged with Tom Gillis moving to the top of the leaderboard at 7 under after playing his first 14 holes in 5 under. Gillis lives in nearby Jupiter, Fla., and knows the course well. He’s also taken advantage of pretty benign conditions with five birdies and zero bogeys. Gillis clearly has the putter working with 10 one-putts so far. It hasn’t hurt that on six of his last seven holes he’s hit it to inside 15 feet every time. Right behind Gillis on the leaderboard is rookie Harris English, who is 2 under through seven. Further down the board, Tiger Woods hasn’t gained much ground, playing his first nine holes in 1 under to get to even par for the tournament. Once again he hasn’t given himself many looks at birdie and when he has, he’s missed most of them, including one from 7 feet on the 18th hole.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Just five years ago Tom Gillis thought about quitting golf.
“I didn’t keep my card and thought, geez, now I have to go to the Nationwide and I just never got my head around it,” Gillis said. “I finished outside the top 100 out there and then I missed at q-school. I thought, well, geez, I’m 38 now, what am I going to do?”
Gillis went back to Michigan but the job market didn’t look very promising in a struggling economy. A friend who sponsored Gillis earlier in his career told him he would back him again, so he took another shot.
Fast forward to Friday and it was clear both men made the right decision. The now 43-year-old shot an 8-under 64 at PGA National, where he is in contention for his first win on the PGA TOUR in what’s been the definition of a journeyman career that has included just 121 starts on TOUR since he turned pro in 1990.
“It's kind of a cool story,” Gillis said. “I like it because you dig deep and you move forward, and it's a good example to young kids, just never give up and keep believing.
“Sometimes it's hard to do that in this game, because it seems like the game is built to tear you down to some extent.”
Gillis built himself and his game back up by hitting the gym and putting in extra work with a local head pro.
It also doesn’t hurt that Gillis lives in nearby Jupiter, Fla., and has played his share of rounds at PGA National since moving to the area in 2007.
He also made some equipment changes, dumping the steel shafts he tried using earlier this season for graphite, which he’s used since 1999 because of three wrist surgeries.
If nothing else, Gillis was also inspired by 52-year-old Tom Pernice who is still eligible on TOUR and in field this week.
“I've been doing it almost 22 years now, played all over the world, 26 countries, played the European Tour, Asia, South Africa,” Gillis said. “I think I'm probably my own worst enemy at the end of the day but I'm a lot better than I used to be.
“That's the great thing about this game is you keep yourself somewhat in condition, you can go quite a while.”