PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The first round of THE PLAYERS Championship certainly offered plenty of storylines on the opening day, beginning with Tiger Woods withdrawal due to injury to Nick Watney’s 8-under 64.
The latter leaves Watney one shot clear of Lucas Glover, who is in contention less than a week after winning the Wells Fargo Championship.
The most surprising name on the leaderboard Thursday? Mark O’Meara’s. The 54-year old shot a 66 to sit in a two-way tie for third with David Toms.
Five others, including Martin Kaymer and Rory Sabbatini, meanwhile, are another stroke back at 5 under.
By Ward Clayton, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Kuchar reacted well to the change of pace he experienced on Thursday in the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship. The 32-year-old Georgia Tech graduate shared the front nine with playing partners Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods and a large media and gallery contingent.
At the turn, an injured Woods was at 6-over-par 42 and withdrew. Kuchar and Kaymer continued their progress up the leaderboard. Kuchar shot 69 and Kaymer a 67.
“Tiger looked like he was in pain,” Kuchar said. “He was walking quite slowly, quite gingerly. It took him a lot of time to get to his ball. His putting and driving were great. But his other clubs were not so good. By the second or third hole he was really grimacing.”
As the trio left the ninth hole, Woods came up and said he was done.
“Have a good back nine -- play well,” was the message he delivered, Kuchar said.
Kuchar has been considered somewhat of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., product since his parents moved near to TPC Sawgrass 10 years ago.
Kuchar and his wife Sybi, who was a standout tennis player at Georgia Tech, lived in the beachside community for a while and now reside at St. Simons Island, Ga., just an hour north of Jacksonville. Matt and Sybi teamed in October 2009 to win the consolation title in the USTA National Husband/Wife Doubles Championship at the ATP Headquarters, located next door to TPC Sawgrass.
Kuchar said he played the Stadium Course two weeks ago and came back last weekend to give it another test run.
“It’s certainly a place I like,” said Kuchar, whose career-best finish here was a tie for 13 th last year. “I feel like I’m a good driver of the golf ball, and around here that’s one of the more important things to do. Put yourself in the fairway and have chances to hit and hold these greens.”
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- He calls it a change. Really, it's just an adjustment. A tweak.
A little here, a little there. Just getting better every swing.
Martin Kaymer spent the first three days of the week working hard on his latest adjustments, then let it fly in the opening round to open THE PLAYERS with a 5-under-par 67.
"I'm still working on it,'' he said. " . . . It's just something that I wanted to change anyways, and today it worked out fantastic, and I will keep working on it. Then one day when everything gets together, then I will play very well.''
Give or take a putt, 67 was good enough to leave him three shots off the early pace set by Nick Watney.
"Today, I just let it go,'' said the reigning PGA champion. "I thought about (the changes) this morning, then just went out and played.''
He did say playing the back nine was a bit different because it was just him and Matt Kuchar, who shot 69, after Tiger Woods withdrew after nine holes.
"You can chill,'' Kaymer said of playing a twosome. "You can walk very slow, your routine, you have plenty of time, and you're still waiting. Obviously it would have been nice if we wouldn't play in the heat; that would have been better. But it's always nice to play in a twosome. You don't have to wait; you just play your game. You have time to think about your shots sometimes if you need to. Nobody is rushing you. ''
In addition to the swing changes, Kaymer also changed TaylorMade drivers from an R9 to an R11.
"I was pleased with a lot of parts of my game today,'' said Kaymer, who went out in 33 and back back in 34. " I was driving the ball much better. . . . "So I hit a lot of fairways, and then I could finally go for some flags. It was fairly easy in the morning. It was soft. The pins were not too tough, so I just hit a lot of good wedges to the holes, and I could make the putts."
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Nick Watney has the clubhouse lead after two-putting from 23 feet at the ninth hole for a final birdie on the way to a 64.
Watney has a one-stroke advantage over Lucas Glover, who won last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. Martin Kaymer and Rory Sabbatini are another shot back after finishing with 67s.
Watney’s round of 8 under was one stroke off the course record. He made of nine birdies, one eagle, a bogey and a double bogey.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Martin Kaymer ended up staying in Germany a little longer than he'd planned to help his brother celebrate his birthday.
Before the festivities, though, Kaymer spent four days with his coach, Guenter Kessler. And when the 26-year-old German returned home to Scottsdale, Ariz., last week he hit the range hard and worked on the tweaks they made to his swing.
"We've been changing a few things now in the last months now," Kaymer said. "Nothing major, just the backswing, to get a little bit closer on plane, shorten it a little bit. So that will take a little bit.
"It was important to see my coach in order to get that going, to have somebody who kind of like has a look at it all the time that I don't make any other mistakes."
Before the two went to work, Kaymer hadn’t been 100 percent happy with his swing. Not after missing the cut at the Masters, even though the reigning PGA champ followed up with a ninth-place finish in Malaysia.
After the two-week break, though, Kaymer comes to Quail Hollow -- a course he likes for the shot values as well as its aesthetics -- ready to play. He tied for 11th at the Wells Fargo Championship two years ago in his only other appearance and he has his eye on next week’s PLAYERS Championship, too.
"I really liked the golf course," Kaymer says of Quail Hollow. "It was a good preparation I thought for the Sawgrass week. I think it's a way underrated golf course. It's one of the best we play on the PGA TOUR, so there was no reason why I shouldn't come back."
While he was idle, Kaymer lost his spot atop the Official World Golf Ranking to Lee Westwood. He could regain it this week but at the same time, he understands and appreciates the volatility of the competition for world No. 1.
"At the moment anything can happen," he said. "Every week you have four or five guys up there. Anything can happen week to week, can change, and I think that is a great thing what we have in golf at the moment.
"Next week it can be an American player up there, then the other week it can be a European player up there again. So for me it was of course it is enjoyable to have that challenge every week, and if I become the No. 1 soon again, I wouldn't mind it. It's a nice spot to be in.
"But at the end of the day, it doesn't really change a lot."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Luckily, there were no injuries. Well, unless you count the strained hamstring suffered by Rory McIlory's manager, Stuart Cage.
McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Nathan Green and Brendan de Jonge, though, came out of Monday evening's soccer match at E.E. Waddell High School unscathed. Just not unbeaten.
"(We) played a local team from here who were a lot better than us," McIlory explained with a grin.
The final score was 7-4. McIlroy and his cohorts trailed 4-1 at halftime but came back to even the score midway through the second half.
"Then they turned it on at the end and beat us," McIlroy said. "But it was great fun. Luckily no injuries, so we're ready to go for this week."
Kaymer was quick to point out that "I made the first goal, so I kept the team going." Of course, McIlroy joked that he didn't remember seeing Kaymer until halftime so there seems to be some discrepancy.
For the record, McIlroy, Garcia and Michael Doren, Camilo Villegas' caddy, joined Kaymer in scoring goals in the losing effort. And when asked whether there were any red cards issued, though, McIlroy quickly jumped in.
"No sort of reckless challenges going in, so it was okay," he said, smiling. – Helen Ross
As mentioned earlier in the week. Luke Donald has another chance at becoming No. 1 in the world.
Here’s how: Donald, currently No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, needs to win or finish second at the Zurich Classic to overtake Martin Kaymer, currently No. 2 in the OWGR. Lee Westwood, the current No. 1, needs to finish fifth or better at the Ballentine’s Championship to stay at the top. If Donald is second at the Zurich Classic, Westwood needs to finish in the top three to stay at No. 1 and if Donald wins in New Orleans, Westwood also needs a win.
So far, so good for Donald. The Englishman is 3 under through his first 12 holes today and 7 under for the week, just two shots off the current lead of Bubba Watson. Westwood, meanwhile, is six shots off the pace in Seoul, South Korea.
Whatever happens, Donald is well on his way to what looks like will be a career year. He has five top-10s in six starts, which includes a win and a runner-up at last week’s Heritage, where he lost in a playoff.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Donald’s season, though, is that as well as he’s been hitting it, he still ranks 166th in driving distance, 141st in greens in regulation and 134th in total driving.
So what’s been the difference? He’s first in putting average and second in scrambling.
That’s not exactly a huge departure the rest of his career -- the difference is Donald is turning pars into birdies and so on, which is why he also leads the PGA TOUR in scoring average. He’s simply making more shots than in the past.
For the third straight week, Luke Donald has a chance to overtake Lee Westwood and become the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Donald entered this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans ranked No. 3 behind Westwood and Martin Kaymer. He needs to win or finish second to overtake Kaymer -- and possibly unseat his fellow Brit at the top.
Of course, all this depends on how Westwood does at the Ballantine's Championship, which is being played this week in Seoul.
Westwood needs to finish fifth or better there to retain the No. 1 spot he wrestled from Kaymer with his win Sunday in Indonesia. But if Donald is second at the Zurich Classic, Westwood needs to finish in the top three to stay at No. 1 and if Donald wins in New Orleans, Westwood also needs a victory to hold him off.
Westwood shot an even par 72 in the first round at the Ballantine’s Championship and is currently tied for 36th.
Donald, who hasn’t finished lower than 10th in his last five PGA TOUR starts, needed a win at last week’s Heritage to grab the No. 1 spot. He ended up in solo second after losing a three-hole playoff with Brandt Snedeker.
Donald tees off the first hole at TPC Louisiana at 1:30 p.m. ET. Click here to tollow Donald’s round on ShotTracker.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Green Jacket is obviously the ultimate prize. But Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald could make some big moves in the Official World Golf Ranking on Sunday, as well.
Donald, who is currently tied for third, three strokes behind McIlroy, could overtake Martin Kaymer as the world No. 1 with a victory. That’s as long as Lee Westwood isn’t alone in second.
Interestingly, Donald was Kaymer’s pick to win at Augusta National prior to the start of the Masters.
And if McIlroy should win his first major championship, he would move to a career-high No. 3 in the world. In that case, Donald would have to finish outside the top three and Phil Mickelson lower than fourth.
McIlroy currently clocks in at No. 9. His highest position is seventh after last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
AUGUSTA, Ga. – This week’s featured group of top-ranked Martin Kaymer, No. 2 Lee Westwood and No. 10 Matt Kuchar are set to tee off at 1:26 p.m. ET in Friday’s second round of the Masters.
Here’s a look at what each needs to do in Round 2.
WHAT KUCHAR NEEDS TO DO FRIDAY: Just keep it going.
Going back to last year's Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, Kuchar has been one of the TOUR's most consistent golfers. In his last 20 starts, he has posted 13 top-10 finishes and has not finished outside the top 35.
So it was no surprise that he put himself right in contention by shooting an opening 4-under 68, just his second round in the 60s in 15 career rounds at Augusta National. Asked what it’s like to be so dialed in these last few months, Kuchar replied, "It's a great feeling."
If Kuchar can continue to maintain the kind of accuracy he displayed on Thursday -- he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation -- he should be a serious factor on the weekend.
WHAT WESTWOOD NEEDS TO DO FRIDAY: Turn it on.
Last year at the Masters, each of Westwood's first three rounds were in the 60s, which is why he entered Sunday with the 54-hole lead (eventually finishing second, of course, to Phil Mickelson).
His even-par 72 on Thursday was filled with pot holes -- a short missed par putt on the opening hole, an overhooked second shot at the eighth that left him up against a tree, a poor tee shot at 12 that left him with an awkward bunker shot … well, you get the picture.
"It's not my game, is it, at the moment?," Westwood said afterward.
Still, the world's No. 2 player didn't shoot himself out of the tournament. But he has work to do. Finding a few more greens would help.
In the previous three years, Westwood finished in the top 10 in the field each year in greens in regulation. On Thursday, he hit just 10 of 18 greens, which left him tied for 75th in the field.
WHAT KAYMER NEEDS TO DO FRIDAY: Start packing.
Sorry to be so crass, but the world's No. 1 player clearly isn't close to figuring out Augusta National. He's missed the cut in his first three appearances, and after shooting a 6-over 78 on Thursday, he's on his way to another MC. Just four golfers recorded scores worse than Kaymer's on Thursday.
Kaymer struggled off the tee (just 6 of 14 fairways) and on the greens (35 putts needed). Incidentally, the only two players who needed more putts in Thursday's first round were Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell, who -- like Kaymer -- happened to win a major last year.
The German, frankly, doesn't even have a game plan for Friday.
"I think that I don't really know how to play the golf course," Kaymer said. " … "I think that maybe I got to sit down with Bernhard Langer later and ask him. You know, he won here twice and I think I can ... get good advice from him."
But probably not enough to save him this year.