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.”
Justin Leonard’s card is safe for next season, but he apparently still has plenty to play for.
“I think we all do,” said Leonard, who opened with a 4-under 66. “I’m trying to turn somewhat solid play in the last couple of months into getting a victory, and I have some new equipment in the bag.”
That new equipment includes a new Nike driver and a new hybrid from Nike -- “It’s a good time of year to do that and get squared away with equipment before January comes,” Leonard said.
In 2007, Leonard also used a victory in the Fall at the Valero Texas Open to springboard himself to his best season in almost a decade with nearly $4 million in earnings in 2008.
“I didn’t play well through the first half of [this] year and then started to play well in late July and August,” Leonard said. “I didn’t really get the results out of it, but I felt very comfortable with my game. It was pretty consistent day to day and week to week. So now, having a nice break, I’m coming back out here for the Fall Series and trying to continue that.” -- Brian Wacker
The first impressions of Sea Island Golf Course?
“Awesome course,” said Steve Marino, who opened with a 67 and is playing here for the first time. “I think everybody is going to love it.”
That was the sentiment from several players on a pristine Thursday morning.
“The golf course is great; I can’t imagine it being in any better condition,” said Justin Leonard, who shot 66 and is staying with Sea Island resident and host Davis Love III this week. “It’s a great event and there’s not many times you can say that out here [on TOUR] after one day.”
As for the course, the first five holes are giving players the most trouble -- they’re currently ranked, in order, third, eighth, first, fifth and sixth.
“It’s one of those courses where the wind certainly has a major effect on the ball,” said Joe Durant, who is currently tied for second after a 65 in the morning wave. “Some holes that we played were dead opposite from when I played Tuesday. If you hit the ball solid, you’re going to be OK.” -- Brian Wacker
First-round notes from our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau:
Ryan Moore was on fire on the back nine at the BMW Championship. Moore shot a back-nine 7-under 29, which ties the lowest nine-hole score of his career. Moore’s back nine included five straight birdies, tying the longest birdie streak of his career. In fact, this is Moore’s fourth birdie-streak of at least five holes since 2007. Boo Weekley and Moore are tied for the second-most with four birdie-streaks of at least 5 holes since 2007. Brian Gay leads the list with five. …
Matt Kuchar continues to get off to good starts in 2010. On Thursday, he shot a first-round 7-under-par 64 and is the first-round leader. This season Kuchar has been even-par or better in 21 of his 23 first rounds on the PGA TOUR, an amazing 91.3 percent. The last players to play in at least 20 tournaments and be even-par or better after the first round at such a high percentage were Scott McCarron (23/24, 95.8 percent) and John Cook (21/23, 91.3 percent) in 2001. …
Justin Leonard began his first round of the BMW Championship on the back nine and parred his first hole. Over the next 13 holes, Leonard was 1 over but did not par a single hole. He made six birdies and seven bogeys. It is the longest streak of holes without a par for Leonard and ties the third-longest streak since 2000 on TOUR. The longest streak of holes without a par since 2000 was 17, by Kaname Yokoo, in the third round of the 2001 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. …
Ian Poulter needs a good finish at the BMW Championship to advance to THE TOUR Championship in two weeks. Poulter began the first round with a double bogey before recovering to shoot a 5-under 66. It was the fourth time in his career that he has double bogeyed the first hole of a round but the first time he has rebounded to finish the round under par.
Whether he wins or not, this will be Justin Leonard’s first top-10 finish of the season. Until this year, the veteran from Texas had posted at least two top-10s every year of his career – which dates back to 1994.
This will be David Toms’ first top-10 of the season, as well. He’s had one every year since 1996. – Mark Stevens
Arjun Atwal and Justin Leonard now share the lead after each made birdie a few minutes ago. How long they stay there, who knows? Both just hit errant shots on the very next hole that will leave them scrambling for par.
There are now seven players tied for the lad with David Toms and Justin Leonard moving to 18 under. And beyond that, there are five more players still on the golf course who are within three of the lead.
Of course you don’t have to look very far back for the last playoff at Sedgefield -- it was last year, when Ryan Moore beat Jason Bohn and Kevin Stadler.
Prior to that, the last playoff was in 1998 when Trevor Dodds beat Scott Verplank at Forest Oaks.
Count Justin Leonard among those who are happy to be able to fire at some flags after playing Whistling Straits and Firestone each of the last two weeks. That’s meant that Leonard is in contention at Sedgefield, where he is 12 under and two off the lead with just one bogey over his last 32 holes -- compared to nine birdies and an eagle.
The other thing on Leonard’s mind this week?
“I catch myself thinking about [the Ryder Cup] and then I squash the idea real quick,” said Leonard, who is well back at 49th in the standings. “I'm just out here trying to capitalize on the confidence that I've gained the last couple weeks in my game and trying to win a golf tournament.
“I feel if I win one of these next three events, then I'll be a little closer to [Corey Pavin’s] short list, but it's not really something that's motivating me right now.” -- Brian Wacker
There’s been a change at the top of the leaderboard as Retief Goosen made a triple bogey on the first hole.
Bubba Watson, on the other hand, birdied his first two holes to move to 7 under and regain the top spot he held after the first round. Watson’s birdie putt at the first hole was from 10 holes and he two-putted the par-5 second from 27 feet.
Justin Leonard just moved into a tie with Watson, as well, when he got up and down for birdie from the greenside bunker at the second hole. – Helen Ross