By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Q-school has plenty of pressure all on its own. Add in winds consistently in the 20-25 mph range -- with gusts as high as 50 -- and scoring has taken on a whole new meaning here in the second round. Case in point: As of this moment, only nine players have recorded rounds in the 60s. Seven more players failed to break 80, including Brendan Pappas, who shot 86 -- currently the highest score in the books Thursday.
As for the leaderboard, there’s still a long way to go here in the second of six rounds at PGA West. Matt Jones, however, was one of those players to break 70, carding a 68 on the Stadium Course to earn a share of the lead at 9 under. Harris English and Will Claxton are also 9 under, but they are still on the golf course.
Some other notable names in the top 25 on the leaderboard: Billy Hurley III, Vaughn Taylor, Jeff Maggert, Dean Wilson, Bob Estes, Troy Merritt, Adam Hadwin and Sam Saunders.
Bill Lunde entered this week with a two-shot advantage over Cameron Tringale in the season-long Kodak Challenge competition. The lead is now three.
Lunde, who is grouped with Tringale for the first two rounds at TPC Summerlin, applied even more pressure to his closest pursuer Friday by making a 14-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th -- this week’s Kodak Challenge hole.
Lunde and Tringale each birdied the hole in Round 1 when Lunde’s 51-foot eagle putt grazed the left edge of the cup before settling inches away for a tap-in birdie. Tringale, who ran his 37-foot eagle putt by the cup before settling for birdie on Thursday, found the left fairway bunker on Friday and only managed a par.
With just three holes remaining on the schedule, Lunde is certainly in the driver’s seat to win the $1 million Kodak bonus previously earned by Kevin Streelman and Troy Merritt. Tringale, currently tied for 9th at 6 under looks like he’ll have two more chances to eagle the 16th and cut his deficit back to two with the same number of holes (all of which are par 4s) left on the schedule.
Here's a look at the three remaining holes on the Kodak Challenge schedule:
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Before the horn blew Saturday afternoon, six players were fortunate to finish the third round. Of course they were only able to do so because they were well off the lead and had an early tee time.
Of those already in the clubhouse, Aussie Matt Jones had the best round, a 3-under 69, to jump 22 spots on the leaderboard and into a tie for 38th at the moment.
Zach Johnson also finished his round, shooting a second straight 70, while Scott Verplank and Carl Pettersson each shot 71.
Last year’s Kodak Challenge winner Troy Merritt shot 73, while Kevin Chappell, who got into the tournament when Jeff Maggert withdrew with an injury, struggled to an 80.
Martin Kaymer discusses playing at Innisbrook and being a low-key World No. 1.
Among the queries Martin Kaymer fielded during his pre-tournament interview at the Transitions Championship was whether the world No. 1 minded that casual golf fans probably still thought that Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson held that spot. Kaymer's answer was as unassuming as his personality.
"No, not at all," the 26-year-old from Germany said. "I know Tiger Woods is probably the best player who ever played the game. He is probably the best talent ever. He hasn’t lost his talent over night. He will come back one day. Obviously Phil, I find it very strange that he has never been No. 1 in the world. He really deserved to be there, but obviously with Tiger up there all those years it was very difficult.
"At the moment I feel very comfortable in the position that I’m in. Under the radar? Maybe a little bit. Maybe it’s good for me that all the attention isn’t on me all the time."
So it was interesting to read this tweet from one of his PGA TOUR contemporaries -- @TROYMERRITT_PGA -- several hours later. "Funny moment of the day: lady asked world #1, Martin Kaymer, if he was a player or caddy!"
Even if that particular woman didn't know Kaymer, he does get recognized in airports and restaurants these days. In fact, the management at a steakhouse in Scottsdale, where he has a home, sent out a special cake congratulating the newly crowned world No. 1. "It was a very cool feeling," Kaymer said.
Kaymer, who was in the mix through two rounds at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship before falling down into a tie for 24th with a pair of 74s last weekend, is playing in the Transitions Championship for the first time. It will be his only event prior to the Masters, which he is sure to enter as a favorite despite three missed cuts there.
"I’ve heard it’s a fantastic tournament with a great golf course that suits my game," Kaymer said of the Transitions Championship. "I didn’t want to play the week before Augusta because I did that the last three years and I never played well at Augusta. So I needed to change things up.
"I want to play well at Augusta and in order to do so I wanted to give myself two weeks off, or three weeks. And knowing from other people that the golf course is one where I can do well, I was happy to get the invitation."
After the Transitions Championship is over, Kaymer, who reiterated that he hopes to join the PGA TOUR in the future, plans head back to Scottsdale. He'll prepare at Whisper Rock Golf Club, then head to Augusta the Wednesday or Thursday of the week prior to the Masters and play several rounds with his father and brother Philip.
"Since I’m with my dad and my brother, obviously they are not allowed to play the championship course, but we will go somewhere else around there," the reigning PGA champ said.
Kaymer has big goals for 2010, too. And a reversal of fortunes at Augusta National would go a long way toward making those reality.
"I would like to play the majors similar to how I played them last year," Kaymer said. "I had two top-10s and a win. And I would like to defend my title in the Race to Dubai. That would be great.” – Helen Ross
The simplest way to describe Troy Merritt’s future right now is “uncertain.” His final-round 67 was good enough to move him into a tie for 30th – for now – but it might not be enough to land him in the top 125 on the money list. As of right now, Merritt is projected to finish at 125th on the money list. But if Johnson Wagner, who double-bogeyed the 16th hole, makes a birdie he could bump Merritt from the top 125.
“I’m pretty well drained,” Merritt told GOLF CHANNEL following his round. “It’s been a long week. I’m not relieved by any sense … And I still gotta go play the Kodak Challenge. Nothing is really sinking in right now, except my future is in Johnson’s hand with two holes to play.” -- Brian Wacker
With Rickie Fowler making par on the par-4 17th hole that assures there will be a playoff between Fowler, Troy Merritt and Aaron Baddeley for the $1 million Kodak Challenge prize.
Merritt was unable to birdie the hole Saturday or Sunday, while neither Fowler nor Baddeley were able to make eagle (each had already birdied it earlier in the week), which means there’s still a three-way tie atop the Kodak leaderboard.
Unless Rickie Fowler can hole out from the fairway when he reaches the par-4 17th hole, there will be a playoff to determine the winner of the Kodak Challenge and the $1 million prize.
Troy Merritt had a chance to win it earlier Sunday, but he managed only a par on the hole, which keeps him tied with Fowler and Aaron Baddeley. Because Fowler and Baddeley already birdied the hole this week, only an eagle would knock that score from their total. Baddeley already played the hole today and made par, while Fowler is through 11 holes.
Should there be a playoff, it will take place following the conclusion of the tournament. The first time through, the players will tee off from the middle tees -- 430 yards, which was the same distance during the first two rounds. If there’s still a tie after that, the tee will be moved to the forward set of tees, which play to about 290 yards. If there’s still a tie after that, the tee will be pushed all the way back to 487 yards. -- Brian Wacker
What was a six-shot lead for Roland Thatcher at one point in the third round is now down to just one -- Thatcher is even through his first five holes, while Robert Garrigus is 4 under through six and now 17 under for the week.
KODAK UPDATE: Troy Merritt had a chance to win the Kodak Challenge with a birdie on the par-4 17th Sunday, but he managed just a par. Merritt had 150 yards in and hit his approach shot to 33 feet, but he missed the putt. That means unless Rickie Fowler or Aaron Baddeley eagles the hole there will be a three-way playoff following the conclusion of the tournament.
MONEY LIST MOVERS: A number of players are vying for a spot in the top 125, but two players are trying to squeeze out a spot in the 30 here in the final round. In essence, if Heath Slocum can finish higher than J.B. Holmes on the leaderboard here at Disney, he’ll move inside the top 30 and secure a spot in the field for next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.
FOWLER IN CONTENTION: Rickie Fowler is 3 under through his first eight holes … and suddenly in contention at 14 under. That also could have a direct impact on Brett Wetterich’s future. Wetterich, who is now tied with Fowler, needs to finish solo third or better to fulfill his major medical exemption, which would make him fully exempt for 2011. Wetterich does however at least have one more start next year, not to mention q-school this year, if he needs it. The point? There’s a lot of fluidity on the leaderboard right now in terms of the top 125.
Troy Merritt had a chance to win the Kodak Challenge early Saturday -- until he nearly put his tee shot in the water on the 487-yard 17th hole. Merritt had to punch out and went on to make double bogey. That won’t hurt him in the Kodak Challenge since it’s a compilation of a player’s best 18 holes from the season-long race, but it does increase the likelihood of a playoff with Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley. All three are tied for the Kodak lead and unless Merritt birdies No. 17 on Sunday, or Fowler or Baddeley eagle the hole, there will be a playoff. By the way, the 17th is playing so far pack the actual yardage is two yards longer than listed on the scorecard for today’s third round.
GARRIGUS MOVING UP: Robert Garrigus came into the week 122nd on the money list and still unable to forget about his admitted choke in Memphis, where he squandered a three-shot lead on the final hole and ultimately lost. Unless Garrigus has another meltdown, though, it looks like he will lock up his card for next season. Garrigus is currently tied for second at 12 under and is currently projected to move up to 71st ( click here for the live projected money list).
MORE MONEY MOVEMENT: The guy who might benefit the most from a big move at Disney today? Cameron Percy. He came into the week 144th on the money list, which is precariously close to missing out on conditional status for next year had he fallen outside the top 150. Percy is 4 under through eight holes today, however, and as a result is currently tied for fifth. He’s also projected to move to 124th on the money list, which would obviously lock up full status for next year.
HOWELL BOGEY-FREE: Charles Howell III is the only player in the field still without a bogey on his scorecard – that’s a stretch of 42 holes with Howell through six holes this morning. Howell has played 13 bogey-free rounds this season, which is best on TOUR. Ironically, he’s also the last player to go bogey-free in a 72-hole event and not win (at The Greenbrier Classic earlier this year).
With two rounds to go, the Kodak Challenge winner is still in doubt after Rickie Fowler birdied the par-4 17th Friday to pull into a three-way tie with Troy Merritt and Aaron Baddeley.
Merritt had a chance to more or less end any drama, but he missed a 15-foot birdie putt Friday that, had it dropped, would have meant Fowler or Baddeley would have had to eagle the hole sometime over the next two days to win.
“[Fowler’s birdie] really didn't take any consideration to what I was going to do with the hole just because Badds was already tied with me,” Merritt said. “Now we got a three‑way tie on top, and I'm kind of playing with house money.”
As it stands, Merritt still controls his own destiny. If he birdies the hole in one of the two remaining rounds, he’ll win the $1 million prize. If not and Fowler or Baddeley don’t make eagle, there will be a three-way playoff immediately following the conclusion of the tournament on Sunday.
Fowler, by the way, didn’t rule out taking a crack at trying to do just that. “I think we'll try and get some looks at two, but I know that's a big long shot,” Fowler said. “If it comes down to a playoff, I think we'll have a lot of fun.” -- Brian Wacker