GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Justin Leonard has just rolled in a 16-footer for eagle at the fifth hole to move back inside the projected top 125 in the FedExCup standings.
Leonard was sitting at No. 124 after the third round but was knocked out early Sunday by Padraig Harrington and William McGirt, who have already finished and face an anxious afternoon. Only the top 125 when the Wyndham Championship is over get to compete in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
McGirt is now the odd man out but there is plenty of golf remaining on a sultry Sunday afternoon. Follow the projected standings by clicking here.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Paul Casey entered the Wyndham Championship ranked 147th in the FedExCup. In a weird way, though, that might be working in his favor.
The Englishman feels like he has nothing to lose. So instead of obsessing over how many points he needs to earn to climb into the top 125 and earn a spot in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, Casey has his eye squarely on the Sam Snead Trophy.
The approach appears to be working, too. Casey fired a 65 on Thursday that left him two strokes off the lead held by Jeff Quinney and Tommy Gainey -- and as a byproduct of that success, he's projected to climb 25 spots to No. 122 in the FedExCup.
"I've got nothing to lose this week," Casey said. "So I'm trying
to put myself in a position to win this golf event. I believe I got
to be top four to seal a place for next week and there are top-10
situations, depending on what other guys do.
"So, I'd love to be part of that. I don't need to get too far ahead, don't need to start thinking about that on a Thursday. For me it's focusing on today and I did a very good job of that, actually. I really went out there very relaxed and -- yeah, I didn't get too caught up in sort of worrying about FedEx stuff.
"Because I'm not on the bubble, quite a way outside, I don't need to worry about it quite as much. ... I'm going to go ahead and enjoy and put myself in a position to win it."
ON THE WAY UP
JEFF QUINNEY: No longer fully exempt on TOUR, Quinney is making just his 11th start this year. As a result, he came to Greensboro ranked 215th in the FedExCup and in real danger of missing the Playoffs for the second straight season. A year ago, it was a real heartbreaker, too -- Quinney finished at No. 126, two strokes shy of advancing. On Thursday, though, Quinney fired a 63 that left him tied for the lead with Tommy Gainey and he's currently projected at No. 79. a prodigious jump of 136 spots.
"The only chance I get in the Playoffs is probably winning this week and coming with the attitude of ... basically just push all your chips in and this is what I got," Quinney said., "It's my last chance and don't hold back, try to get out of my own way."
ERNIE ELS: The South African has played in every Playoffs event during the first four years of the FedExCup. In fact, he was ranked No. 1 entering The Barclays last year. Els has struggled with his putter this year, though, and he added Greensboro to his schedule -- making his first apppearance since 1997 -- because he found himself ranked No. 126, trailing Camilo Villegas by .437 of a point. He opened with a 65, though, and projects to move up 17 spots.
"I say to the guys my playoffs have started this week, because
if I don't play well this week I'm not advancing," Els said. "So
most of the other guys have four playoff events, I've got five. I
feel like I need to do well and enough to get to The Barclays and
It's hard not to think about it. There's quite a bit of pressure on us guys lower down the field. You need to perform well."
JUSTIN LEONARD: The Texan, who tied for third at last year's Wyndham Championship, opened with a solid round of 66 on Thursday. Leonard finished Thursday night projected as the bubble boy, which would make a move of 17 spots.
"I'm trying to build a little bit of momentum," Leonard said. "Obviously it's been a disappointing and frustrating year but my game has been better the last few weeks. I haven't been able to get really good scores out of it and so, you know, I would love to play well this week and make the Playoffs but really just I want to kind of build the things on I'm working on and see if some good things happen and I'm going to play a few events in the fall. Hopefully, I'd certainly like to be playing next week."
HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
CAMILO VILLEGAS: He came into the week as the bubble boy at No. 125 and shot an even-par 70. He battled back from bogeys at his first two holes, but couldn't get anything going. As a result, Villegas projects to fall six spots in the rankings and is also in danger of missing the cut.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The Irishman was the last player to commit to the Wyndham Championship, making his decision after the second round of the PGA Championship and delaying what would have been a family vacation to the Bahamas. He came to Greensboro for the first time ever ranked No. 130 in the FedExCup and didn't help his standing in Round 1. Harrington played well early on Thursday, making the turn 3 under but he ended up shooting a 71 that left him in a tie for 71st.
CAMERON BECKMAN: Beckman didn't do himself any favors on Thursday with a late string of three straight bogeys on his back nine en route to a 73. He's tied for 135th at the Wyndham Championship, as a result, and projects to drop from No. 124 to 129th in the FedExCUp standings. He'll likely need to go low on Friday to have a chance.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Justin Leonard has played in three Wyndham Championships and never finished lower than a tie for 16th.
Last year was his first appearance at Sedgefield Country Club, though, and Leonard tied for third, two strokes off the pace on the Donald Ross gem. So it was no surprise to see him on the leaderboard again Thursday at 4 under, three strokes off Jeff Quinney's lead.
"I do enjoy the golf course," the Texan said. "You can move the ball around off the tee and I hit quite a few drivers, hit a few 3-woods and it never gets boring, which is nice. It's a very nice golf course and I really like it."
Having a comfort zone this week is even more important considering Leonard entered the Wyndham Championship ranked 142nd in the FedExCup. He needs a big week just to make the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup for the fifth straight season.
"I'm trying to build a little bit of momentum," Leonard said. "Obviously it's been a disappointing and frustrating year but my game has been better the last few weeks. I haven't been able to get really good scores out of it and so I would love to play well this week and make the Playoffs but really just I want to kind of build the things on I'm working on and see if some good things happen and I'm going to play a few events in the fall.
"Hopefully I'd certainly like to be playing next week."
Leonard certainly played solidly on Thursday, hitting 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. He didn't make a bogey and used just 29 putts.
"Drove the ball really well," Leonard acknowledged. "Hit the ball, didn't hit the ball too close but made some nice two putts from longer range when I needed to and, you know, nice to make a few birdies."
The leaders have yet to tee off at the Reno-Tahoe Open, but they are already facing pressure to go low in the final round.
Troy Matteson had made five birdies in his first 11 holes to get to 10 under, three off the lead held by Scott Piercy.
Canadian Matt McQuillan has also made a much needed final-round move. He’s 4 under through nine holes, and sits at 9 under. McQuillan entered the week 148th in the FedExCup standings, putting him on the Playoffs bubble.
The winner of the Reno-Tahoe Open will earn a spot at next week’s PGA Championship if already not qualified for the event. The only player near the top of the leaderboard that is in the field next week is Steve Elkington, who won the PGA Championship in 1995.
Elkington is tied for third at 10 under, and leads the five major champions that made the cut in Reno this week (Todd Hamilton – 7 under, Justin Leonard – 6 under, Shaun Micheel – 4 under, Jose Maria Olazabal – 1 over).
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Since the Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance Justin Leonard has been working with putting guru Marius Filmalter. The work appears to be paying some dividends.
Friday Leonard shot a 3-under 67 to move within two of the lead. He’s also eighth in the field in putting this week.
“I’m just trying to get connected again,” Leonard said. “My stroke had gotten a little loose. And kind of doing too much with the hands and arms and getting the stroke back in the shoulders, and it feels really good.”
The result has been, too. This is the first time Leonard, who has just one top-10 the last two years, has been tied for second or better since last year’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, where he was tied for second after the first two rounds.
“Being able to make a few putts, it takes the pressure off everything else,” Leonard said. “It creates an ease out there on the golf course that I haven't played with in a while, and it's been very nice.
“It'll be nice teeing off late on a Saturday. It's been a while. So looking forward to seeing what I can do this weekend.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Justin Leonard’s season hasn’t exactly gone very well. He has just three top-25s and he’s missed the cut in seven of his last 10 starts.
That prompted Leonard, who works with Randy Smith, to also turn to Marius Filmalter for help with his putting. The two have worked together the last few weeks and again this week at Aronimink.
The result? An opening-round 2-under 68 to get Leonard near the lead.
”I've been working very hard and playing pretty well but just not getting the scores out of it,” Leonard said. “It was nice to get out there and make a couple birdies early and be comfortable out there shooting a good score.”
What Filmalter has been working with Leonard on is trying to shorten his putting stroke, which Leonard says had gotten long and loose.
”The main thing is gaining confidence and getting comfortable,” Leonard said. “I'm doing those two things.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Will there eventually come a day where every manufacturer’s driver is available in white?
We’re not there yet, but Cobra has joined TaylorMade in introducing a white offering for its S3 driver, on the heels of a limited-edition run of white ZL drivers last year. Those white ZL drivers – one of which Ian Poulter used to win last November in Hong Kong – actually preceded the TaylorMade white R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0, though you’re forgiven for not remembering that given the barrage of TaylorMade advertising and TOUR success.
“We’re excited to be the only brand to offer both a white and black driver model to golfers this season, complete with our latest 2011 technologies,” said Cobra-Puma Golf senior vice president/general manager Brian Zender, offering a slight zing to the fact that TaylorMade’s white sticks aren’t also available in black.
BALL MOVES: Jhonattan Vegas switched to Nike’s 20XI X golf ball for the Valero Texas Open, joining others in the Nike stable including Justin Leonard and Anthony Kim (who plays the softer S model). Tiger Woods, however, still plays the Nike One Tour D.
MIXED BAG: TOUR pros aren’t afraid to mix and match to find a winning combination, but Brendan Steele’s bag is pretty unique. In winning the Valero Texas Open, the rookie played a Titleist driver, hybrid, irons and wedges (matching his hat and bag) but also had a Callaway X-Tour 3-iron and a TaylorMade Rossa Monza Corza Mid putter.
One club that proved especially key for Steele was a 60-degree (bent to 62 degrees) Titleist Vokey wedge, which he recovered from his garage just before leaving for San Antonio. Its lower bounce proved helpful on the tight fairways of the AT&T Oaks course.
DORAL, Fla. -- Francesco Molinari and Anthony Kim took a break from their preparation for the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on Monday evening to entertain the media and promote the new Nike 20XI ball.
Nike's braintrust, in collaboration with engineers at DuPont, took four years to develop the technology for the 20XI. Instead of a rubber core, the ball uses a resin material that is designed to produce more distance, straighter ball flight and more controlled shots.
“I have never been more excited about a new golf ball innovation than I am now,” said Rock Ishii, Nike Golf’s Product Development Director for golf balls. “For many years, golf ball development has primarily been focused on the number of layers with a solid rubber core.
"We believe that there wasn’t really anywhere else to go as far as technology advancement in these areas, and felt that the next window of opportunity was in the exploration of various materials for the core.”
In addition to Kim – who put the ball in play the same week he tested it -- and Molinari, Stephen Ames, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Justin Leonard, Jamie Lovemark, Pablo Martin and Carl Pettersson are among other Nike athletes who have switched to the 20X1.
The new balls will be available to the general public on April 29. There are two in the series. The 20XI-X is optimized for distance while the 20XI-S has a softer cover and offers better control around the greens.
MARANA, Ariz. -- No one will have played in all 13 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championships when the opening matches get under way on Wednesday.
Three players have only missed one, though, and are playing in their 12th this week. The answer to that trivia question? Well, you’re right if you said Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington.
Another nine players have played in 11 Accenture Match Play Championships. But only six of those players are competing this week – Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Robert Allenby, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.
Among the players missing are some pretty interesting names in Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby, Justin Leonard and David Toms, who won the 2005 Accenture Match Play Championship. The first three have played 11 times previously while Toms has made 10 starts.
D.A. Points turned in the wedge shot of the year so far on TOUR at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, using a 52-degree Ping Tour-W wedge for his Sunday holeout eagle on the 14th at Pebble.
Suffice to say, his gap wedge delivered better last week than he remembered on a similar shot a few years prior.
“It was a couple years ago, I was playing pretty well here and I was in the Top-10 and I was making a lot of
birdies,” Points said. “I came down there and I had a gap wedge, similar kind of shot and I spun it left off the green and rolled down the hill under the tree and I made double bogey.
“Most of the time we are worried about putting too much spin on it. This year we are trying to get as much spin on it so we can hold it up there.”
-- Speaking of ball spin, Nike introduced a new TOUR-level golf ball Tuesday, the 20XI. The conventional rubber core is replaced with a resin core, engineered to produce more distance and control. Nike says the ball has perimeter weighting between the lighter core and heavier outer layers.
The ball, which comes in distance and spin models, is being used by Stephen Ames, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Jamie Lovemark, Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson, among others.
Whether Tiger Woods switches to the 20XI remains to be seen, though he is said to be considering it. He still plays the Nike Tour One.
-- Golfweek’s Gene Yasuda writes that Wilson Golf spent $4 million on research and development last year – five times what it spent five years ago – in order to help implement to a two-year product cycle. The company’s marketing message has been simplified, touting 61 major championships won with Wilson irons, and Kevin Streelman has been added to a stable of TOUR pros that includes Ricky Barnes and Padraig Harrington.
Wilson posted an entertaining YouTube video of commercial outtakes including Barnes. Look for the wedge-bouncing ball trick, similar to the old Woods Nike commercial, here.
-- What was in amateurs’ bags at the AT&T? TaylorMade said its R11 was the No. 1 driver, with 24 in play.
Bill Murray won the Pro-Am with new Titleist Vokey wedges. Check out the BM stamps on his custom clubs here .
--Odyssey just released their D.A.R.T. putters and E. Michael Johnson of Golf World writes that the company is making a handful of “TOUR-only” options including a mid-length version with a 400-gram head, a long version with a 450-gram head, a black PVD version and one with a red D.A.R.T. alignment device. Some of those putters may be put in play at Riviera.
-- In a Masters conference call this week, Phil Mickelson lent some insight into his bag.
On putting two drivers into play at Augusta:
“That particular year, I believe, was one of the first years, if not the first year, that the golf course was lengthened extraordinarily. I think that was the first year that a lot of length was added; tee boxes were moved back quite a few yards. And to combat that, I tried to get a driver that I could hit an initial 20 yards.
“Although I called one a draw driver and one a fade driver, the long driver was the driver that I drew. But I also hit it 20 to 25 yards longer than I did my regular, was a longer shaft and so forth. And I believe that it played a big factor in me winning the golf tournament.
“Now the driver that I have, is very similar to that distance. It might only be five or seven yards shorter than that driver, and so there's really not a benefit to putting another longer driver in play. And so that frees me up to add another club.”
On his wedges:
“I've set my wedges now -- I used to have as much as five wedges, as you know. And what I did was took the gap and sand wedge and kind of created a club in between.
“So every week now, I am set with four wedges. I have a 64 and a 60. I have a strong sand wedge. Which is about 54, 53 1/2, 54 degrees, and then I have a pitching wedge that's a 47 1/2, 48. So that allows me to add some other clubs longer in the bag.
“And usually at Augusta, I don't have a hybrid. I usually carry a 3-iron. And the reason for that is, if I'm not able to reach the par 5s, like 13 and 15, with a 3-iron or less, I usually don't want to go for it, anyways.
“And second, the additional length on No. 4 puts me a lot of times right between clubs, between a 4-iron and sometimes a 3-iron. And so having a 3-iron in the bag at Augusta is what has helped me the last couple of years in some of those in-between shots from 220 to 245.
“So that is usually how my setup, club setup, is. And I no longer play with five wedges. I've had four wedges now and the same wedges for the last couple of years.”