Unless he rights the ship, it looks like Ryugi Imada will have to wait another couple of weeks to secure his first win since 2008. Imada was only a shot back entering the third round, but the 34-year-old bogeyed two of the first five holes.
Play on the weekend has haunted Imada all year. He's 27th on TOUR in scoring average before the cut (70.16), but he's averaged 71.06 in the third round (153rd on TOUR).
Ryuji Imada didn't know what to expect after opening with a 68 on Thursday, but he felt good about his game. Then, his putter reminded him how low he could score as long as the cup got in the way.
Imada drained putts from all corners of the greens on Friday, firing a career-low 62 at TPC Summerlin that gives him an excellent shot at taking the 36-hole lead into the weekend at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
The biggest shot of Imada's round? An eagle on the par-4 15th, which was playing only 296 yards on Friday. Imada went for the green but pushed his drive into the bunker. He sank the bunker shot to get to 8 under on the day.
"[I] caught a good lie, and it just went in," Imada said.
Imada, who hasn't won since the 2008 AT&T Classic, has found it tough to get win No. 2. After a $3 million year in 2008, the Japan native fell off the map in 2009. Forget top-10s -- his best finish was a tie for 14th at the Memorial Tournament.
The 2010 has been better -- somewhat. Imada battled rib injuries during mid-season, but is finally healthy. After missing two cuts to start the Fall Series, Imada challenged for the win last week at the Frys.com Open before finishing sixth.
"You know, I've been working hard to get my second PGA TOUR victory, and you know, you never know when that next chance comes around," Imada said. "And this looks like it, so I'm going to give it my best shot.
"It's always a lot of fun when you have a chance to win on the PGA TOUR. And you know, I'm in that position right now, so hopefully I can keep that up the next two days."
The current leader is Ryugi Imada, who missed only one green en route to a 62, tied with Martin Laird for the low round of the week.
Imada's previous best round on TOUR WAS 64 (three times, most recently in 2006). The 34-year-old, who has battled injury all year, secured his 2011 card last week when he tied for sixth at the Frys.com Open.
|62 (9 under)||2010||Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open||2|
|64 (8 under)||2005||Bob Hope Chrysler Classic||3|
|64 (7 under)||2005||Michelin Championship||1|
|64 (7 under)||2006||Booz Allen Classic||2|
Ryuji Imada looked like he'd be headed home early after opening with four straight bogeys on Thursday. So how did he make his way onto the leaderboard Friday morning?
Well, Imada followed his 40 on the back Thursday with a 32 on the front to finish 1 over. And he had a completely opposite start to his second round -- making four straight birdies to move to 3 under for the tournament.
Ben Crane has made two eagles and an ace already this week. Now all that’s left is to see whether he can delight the home crowd with a victory on Sunday.
Crane, who lives in Westlake, Texas, about 40 miles away from Fort Worth, enters the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at 14 under and two strokes off the lead held by Bryce Molder and Brian Davis.
And he got a big boost Saturday on the 17 th hole where he holed that pitching wedge from 142 yards for eagle. He walked to the green and retrieved the ball, then tossed it into the appreciative crowd for a souvenir.
“I just took dead aim and hit a beautiful shot and the crowd got a little louder and a little louder as it hit, and then all of a sudden they erupted and that was certainly a thrill,” Crane said.
Crane has already won once this season and he came to Colonial riding the momentum of consecutive top-10s, including a tie for fourth at THE PLAYERS Championship. But he says his goal on Sunday is simply to play his best.
“That’s not my goal to capture the championship,” Crane said. “My goal is just to do my best and certainly I sure hope I don't change my game plan. If I'm changing my game plan, I'm not doing the right thing. I'm not doing the thing I set out to do to make this process primary -- just to be able to relax and commit to each shot and just let them go.
“So often as golfers, we want a certain result or try to control this ball. And we think this golf ball has feelings, but the last I checked, it doesn't. Anyway, it's a crazy game. Was it Bobby Jones that said most of the time golf is a sport that's played on a field of 5 and a half inches right between your ears? I like that.”
Crane stayed in the moment so well back in January when he won the Farmers Insurance Open, he didn’t know he had won the tournament until his playing partner, Ryuji Imada congratulated him on the 72 nd hole. He’d like nothing better than to have that mindset on Sunday, too.
“That was great for me to be able to just not worry so much about where other people were at and just play,” Crane said. “Occasionally you might catch the glimpse of a leaderboard, but certainly I hope I don't do that and that I'm able to play free and just add them up at the end of the day.”
Crane is one of 17 players within six strokes of the lead. He says that logjam shouldn’t affect his concentration one way or another.
“If I'm doing what I set out to do, it won't be a factor,” Crane said. “So again I'm not trying to achieve a result, I'm just trying to do my best.”
Interesting stat on Ryuji Imada, who shot a disappointing 4-over 76 to fall seven shots behind third-round leader Lee Westwood: Of the top 44 players on the leaderboard, Imada was the only player to shoot over par in the third round.
In fact, just 17 of the 70 players who made the cut failed to shoot at least par in the third round. The day's highest score was recorded by Stephen Ames, who had a 79.
It has been almost two years since Ryuji Imada posted his first PGA TOUR victory, claiming the AT&T Classic in a playoff against Kenny Perry.
After going through a lull in 2009 when he failed to record a top-10 finish, Imada has raised his game in 2010 in an attempt to add a second title to his resume. He's produced two top-10 finishes this year and now going into this weekend at THE PLAYERS Championship, he's in great shape after shooting a 6-under 66 to put him at 11 under for the tournament, just one stroke off the current leader, Lee Westwood.
Watch Ryuji Imada as he Ryuji Imada holes a birdie chip from just off the green at the par-5 9th.
"It's tough. These guys are really good, and I've still got to practice hard and shoot low scores."
He'll certainly shoot plenty of low scores if he continues to putt the way he did on Friday when he needed just 23 putts, 11 on the back nine.
Outside of a 28-footer for birdie on the par-4 seventh, though, his made putts were not unusually long. Instead, he made all 16 of his putts inside 15 feet during his bogey-free round.
"Obviously, to have 23 putts, everything has got to go your way," he said. "If you're striking it decent and having 10- to 20-footers all day, you're not going to have 23. And if you do, you're going to be shooting in the 50s. So obviously your irons have got to be a little bit off to have 23 putts.
"But my putting feels great. I don't know the last time it felt this good."
Imade went out in 32, finishing his front nine with three consecutive birdies. But his key hole Friday was the 10th when his approach shot caught the slope and fell off the green to the left. He wasn't happy with his third shot, and his par putt was just inside 15 feet. But he nailed it.
"That kept the round going," he said.
Now let's see if he keep his momentum going the next two days.
To replay Imada's round on Shot Tracker, click here. -- Mike McAllister
RYUJI IMADA'S STATISTICS FROM ROUND 2
|Driving distance||Fairways hit||Greens in regulation||Putts needed||Sand saves|
|271.1 yards||9 of 14||11 of 18||23||3 of 3|
Ryuji Imada doesn’t exactly have a great record at THE PLAYERS Championship with two missed cuts, a tie for 45th and a tie for 65th. He’s in the lead right now, though, after making the turn in 32 with three straight birdies to close out the front. Among those birdies were a hole out from just off the green on No. 9 and a 28-foot putt on No. 7.
As good as that was, however, Imada wasn’t as good as Jerry Kelly on the front. Kelly turned in 31 with five birdies and no bogeys. The most amazing part about that? Kelly hit eight of nine greens despite hitting just three fairways.
In case you were wondering, the lowest front nine score ever recorded at TPC Sawgrass is a 30, shot by six players – most recently Chad Campbell in 2003 during the second round. J.C. Snead also shot a 30 in this tournament, but that was at Atlanta Country Club. -- Brian Wacker