LA JOLLA, Calif. -- The North Course is generally regarded as the more generous of the two at Torrey Pines, and Spencer Levin took full advantage Thursday, making birdie on the 18th hole to shoot a 62.
Levin has a two-stroke advantage over Josh Teater and Rod Pampling, who also played the North and shot a pair of 64s. Bill Haas, who set the pace until he made double bogey on the par-3 sixth, his 15th hole of the day, is also at 8 under with one remaining.
Camilo Villegas, who held a share of the first-round lead last week at the Humana Championship, has finished off a 65 on the North. He's tied with Greg Chalmers, who is also finished, and Kyle Stanley and John Huh, who are through 16 and 15 holes, respectively.
Of the top 14 players on the leaderboard only two are playing on the South Course, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open. Marco Dawson is 6 under through 17 holes while Marc Turnesa is at the same number through 16.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Two players to watch on Sunday afternoon who aren’t vying for the title or the money lead are Spencer Levin and D.J. Trahan.
Levin is bidding to crack the top 30 on the money list and earn his first start at the Masters next spring. Levin has played 13 holes and is 6 under for the tournament – and he trails No. 30 Kevin Na by $15,209 right now.
Na won his first PGA TOUR event four weeks ago at the Justin Timberlake Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open. Winners of Fall Series events, though, do not get Masters invitations and Na opted not to play this week. His final event of the year is the Shanghai Masters next week.
Trahan, who started the week No. 123, started on the back nine and has played eight holes. He was the bubble boy through three rounds and has dropped down to No. 126 right now.
|Top players without a win in this week's field|
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Sounds like the most incongruous of golf pairings, but it wasn’t far from coming to fruition Sunday at Augusta – the Green Jacket and the long putter.
Adam Scott fell a little short of capturing his first major at Augusta National, but if he had it would have also
Tim Clark used one to win THE PLAYERS Championship last year and finished second with one in the 2006 Masters. Nick O’Hern and Scott McCarron also use long putters. Belly putters are even more prevalent, as we saw last month with Martin Laird and Spencer Levin using them while battling for the Arnold Palmer Invitational title.
When Jack Nicklaus won his signature sixth Green Jacket with an oversized-head Response ZT putter, the public bought thousands in the days afterward. Might the same thing have happened if Scott had won with his 49-inch Scotty Cameron Studio Select Kombi? Who knows.
But don’t expect to see Scott with anything else anytime soon. He put one in the bag earlier this year at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and it has more than earned its place.
“After I saw some putts going in, it wasn't really hard to change,” Scott said. “The rhythm with the long putter is very nice, and that's something I was fighting in my putting with the short putter. So I started practicing with it, and the more I practiced with it, the better it felt and the more putts I made and eventually it was a pretty easy decision that I should give it a run.”
Scott tied for third at the Masters and had 111 putts over four days, which tied him for third in the field behind Luke Donald and the winner, Charl Schwartzel.
MORE BELLY TALK: World No. 2 Lee Westwood couldn’t hide his disgust with his work on the greens at Augusta and went to a belly putter for the final round. The 2010 runner-up finished tied for 11th, shooting 74-70 for the weekend after a Friday 67 moved him into contention.
“To come so close last year and get myself in good shape this year and then, on the greens, it just makes me feel like pulling my hair out,” Westwood said. “I felt a little more comfortable (Sunday) with the belly putter. At least I made one 15-footer.”
Westwood added that he “didn’t see any future in the short (putter) for a while.”
ANOTHER TIGER PUTTER?: OK, maybe not yet. But this photo from his trip to China this week is amusing. Look closely and you’ll see Woods practicing a long-putter stroke with a standard-length putter.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM producer
The allure of the belly putter was on full display at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, as Martin Laird and Spencer Levin played in the final group all weekend with the longer flatsticks.
Are the unconventional putters a full-fledged trend on TOUR? Maybe not yet, but it’s worth noting that two of the top 30 in the world ranking now play with them – No. 28 Adam Scott (the full split-grip long putter) and Laird, who cracked the top 30 at No. 21 after winning at Bay Hill with a belly putter.
For Levin, the new putter has a complete game-changer. He switched after he secured his 2011 card late last year, and now he has three top-10s in his last six starts.
“When you're playing, you don't really think about it but looking back, I think I've obviously made more putts with it than I was before,” said Levin, who finished T2 in putts per round at Bay Hill.
“Since I got that belly putter, I've definitely noticed I've been making some more mid-range putts. Before with a normal putter, I was always good -- I was always a good short putter but I wasn't a very good 12- to 20-foot putter. (Now) I feel like I'm making a couple more a round, which is I think probably why I'm scoring better for sure.”
Reigning British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is getting into the act too; check out the Ping belly putter he bought at Augusta National here .
● Speaking of the Masters, world No. 2 Lee Westwood talked Wednesday at the Shell Houston Open about possible changes in his bag for the season’s first major.
“I generally keep the same stuff in, decide last minute whether it's 2-iron or 5 (wood). Augusta is generally 5 because you need to fly the ball in high,” Westwood said. “I've been doing a little bit of work with different bounces on sand irons. It's nice to take a bit of the bounce off the lob wedge at Augusta with the lies you get there and the firmness of the sand in the traps. It's nice to get under the ball a little bit.”
● Tiger Woods went back to his standard Nike VR blades at the Arnold Palmer, taking out the newer-version Nike VR Pro blades he put in the bag at the Chevron World Challenge last year. The VR blades will go to the Masters, too.
As for his continuing putter saga, Woods made an adjustment to the heel-shafted Nike Method that lately has replaced the Scotty Cameron that had been his constant through the years.
“We softened the grooves up to make sure it's not as quick, as I said, and I wanted something more suited for faster greens,” Woods said. “So we softened up the grooves, and it's coming off very similar to my Cameron and releasing obviously how I like it.”
Something more suited for faster greens … hmm. Sounds like a Masters putter.
● Laird won last week with a TaylorMade white driver, but not the more-ballyhooed R11. He used the Burner SuperFast 2.0 while ranking fifth in distance for the week.
“I put that new driver in at Doral three weeks ago, and I’m not someone that changes equipment much,” Laird
said. “I had had my driver before for three years and Taylor Made had been pushing me to try this new one, and I’m glad they did because this thing is unbelievable.”
● K.J. Choi turned heads with the three hybrids he used to finish tied for sixth at Bay Hill (read more here ), but another money club was the Odyssey putter he returned to. Choi’s trademark with putters is the SuperStroke extra-wide grip, said to keep the wrists from breaking down. He used one to win the AT&T National in 2007 and has had it ever since.
● Retief Goosen is going back to the Yes! model putter he used to win two U.S. Opens, our Melanie Hauser writes here .
● PLAYERS champion Tim Clark and others have played with Srixon’s yellow ball, which the company says offers improved visibility , not to mention a distinctive look.
On Twitter, a fan asked Titleist if they would make an orange ProV1 to match Rickie Fowler’s standard Sunday Oklahoma State-inspired outfits. The response: “Highly unlikely!”
● Jack Wulkotte, inducted over the weekend into the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Hall of Fame, owns a pretty significant place in golf history. He was Jack Nicklaus’ personal clubmaker while with MacGregor. That ZT Response putter that Nicklaus won with at the 1986 Masters (and that you’ll hear plenty about over the next week)? Wulkotte put the grip on it. Read his story .
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It looks like Spencer Levin’s going to have to wait for his first win. After starting the day just two shots off the lead Levin is now five back after bogeys on four of his first six holes.
It’s been pretty much a disaster since the start for Levin, who three-putted his opening hole and the made three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 3-5.
The biggest difference for Levin today compared to the rest of the week? For starters, he’s only hit one green in regulation. For another, he hasn’t scrambled very well.
Meanwhile, David Toms has now moved into second thanks to birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. He didn’t hit the green in regulation on either hole, but still managed to get up-and-down for birdie. -- Brian Wacker
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The biggest reason Spencer Levin is near the top of the leaderboard is his putting.
Through his first three rounds, Levin made a field-best 12 putts from beyond 12 feet. Nine of those came in the 10-20 foot range.
That hasn’t been the case in the early stages of today’s final round. Levin three-putted his first hole, missing from just over 4 feet for a bogey that drops him three shots back of Martin Laird.
To follow Laird and Levin live with Shot Tracker, click here .
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Martin Laird has already qualified for the Masters.
Plenty of others behind him on the leaderboard have not, including Spencer Levin, Marc Leishman and Augusta, Ga., native Charles Howell III. All three need a win to get into the field since none of them has a chance to be in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings by Sunday night.
If none of them gets it this week, they’ll have one more opportunity in next week’s Shell Houston Open, where all three are in the field.
Levin, of course, is also trying to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR after a couple of near-misses -- but Augusta National won’t be too far removed from his thoughts.
"It's in the back of my mind for sure," said Levin, who has never played in the Masters. “I'm sure it is for everybody who is in my position and needs a win to get there.”
Howell is trying to get to his hometown event for the first time since 2008 after falling all the way to 149th in the world.
Leishman and Senden are both looking for return invitations to Augusta National, too. Leishman missed the cut last year in his only appearance there, while Senden missed the cut in his two appearances.
Then there’s J.B. Holmes. He’s pretty much the only player who could move inside the top 50 in the World Rankings to qualify for the Masters.
Depending on some other things, it looks like Holmes, who has only played in one Masters, would need to finish fourth or better. He’s currently tied for 16th and 1 under through four holes today. -- Brian Wacker