By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- D.A. Points sent a text message to Bill Murray on Saturday morning just to make sure the two would be partners against in a few weeks to defend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Murray replied: "Of course. I never thought we weren't."
But before Points defends his own individual title at Pebble Beach, he may have some additional hardware to carry back to the mainland, thanks to a 6-under 64 during Saturday's third round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
"I finally hit some quality iron shots and holed some putts," Points said. "I had been burning the edge for, whatever, the first six rounds of the year and today some dropped in finally."
Points said playing last week in Kapalua was beneficial in getting the rust off his game.
"Playing over there was really a big advantage," Points said. "The golf courses are not at all similar; but you go over there and you try to make a lot of birdies.
"So when you come over here, you're still thinking, well, I'm out here to try to make a lot of birdies, and that kind of mindset. I think when you're playing well and shooting under par, even if it's not a lot under par, you kind of stay in that frame of mind and you just keep trying to make birdies and birdies and birdies."
Perhaps more beneficial, though, is Points' new routine prior to rounds, in which his schedule is more standardized in terms of his warm-up. He said he'll have 10 minutes of putting, 10 minutes of chipping, 20 minutes of practice on the range, then more time back on the putting green.
It's a schedule from which he doesn't plan to deviate.
"Before that, I just kind of winged it," Points said. "Sometimes I would show up 30 minutes before my time, sometimes I would show up an hour and 20 minutes before my time.
"And it always kind of bothered me and I just didn't really ever take the time. I kind of procrastinated and kind of pushed it off."
But he practiced the routine during the offseason. It's paying quick dividends. The next routine he'd like to get familiar with is returning to the winner's circle.
In the final round of the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, D.A. Points holes a clutch approach at the par-5 14th hole.
EDISON, N.J. – With less than an hour of daylight left, Justin Rose probably won’t get his first round finished. But the Englishman should go home energized after making a run up the leaderboard on Thursday afternoon.
Rose birdied his first hole and bogeyed his next before playing his next 11 holes in 5 under. His most recent birdie came at the 13th hole, where he rolled in an 11-footer for his sixth of the day.
And Rose isn’t the only player prospering as the afternoon wanes. Matt Kuchar, playing two groups behind him, has just made consecutive birdies at Nos. 11 and 12 to join Rose at 5 under.
The group at 4 under is getting bigger, too, with the addition of D.A. Points, Chris Stroud and William McGirt to the mix. Points has played 12 holes, Stroud 10 and McGirt eight.
McGirt, who came into the week as the bubble boy at No. 125, reeled off four straight birdies starting at the fourth hole. It’s very early, but the PGA TOUR rookie is now projected at No. 82.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Prior to this week, D.A. Points had never played in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
”I've watched it on TV,” Points said. “But it's kind of more of just I watch it and don't really soak it in as much as I should. It's a great golf course, it's just straight in front of you. The conditions are great.”
Points took advantage of those conditions, shooting a 4-under 66 Thursday to sit near the top of the leaderboard in what he called a “scrappy” round.
Even though Points made seven birdies, he also made two bogeys -- one of which included a three-putt on the 18th hole -- and hit 57 percent of his fairways and 56 percent of his greens in regulation. That’s what he was referring to in terms of scrappy.
That said, Firestone seems to fit Points’ eye and he wasn’t terribly surprised he fared well in the opening round.
”It's good for me because I generally drive it pretty straight, and this is a course you need to drive it straight,” Points said. “It's pretty long, so the soft conditions isn't really helping my length of approach shots, but it is helping me keep it in the fairway when I make a good swing at it, and that makes it easier.
“I'm pleased with everything except for the stupid three-putt on the last hole. I just was unsure about the way the last putt was going to go, and I just didn't make a good stroke. But other than that, I'm on the right track.”
In two of his first four starts this year, D.A. Points finished in the top 5, which of course included his memorable win at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with comedian and lifelong hero of sorts Bill Murray as his partner. Since then, however, the season has been up-and-down with just one top-25 finish for Points.
Still, his play early on was good enough to get him into the field for this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, where another strong performance could open up even more doors.
And so far Points is taking advantage of the opportunity with five birdies and just one bogey through his first 11 holes.
That has Points one shot clear of a half dozen players at the moment, including Rory Sabbatini, who is playing for the first time since the British Open.
As for what to watch for at Firestone, when Hunter Mahan won there last year he ranked 15th in total driving, eighth in greens in regulation and fourth in strokes gained-putting. In other words, everything needs to be clicking.
The drive from Pekin, Ill., to Silvis, Ill., is about 100 miles. So for D.A. Points, the John Deere Classic is about as close to a home game as he’ll find on the PGA TOUR.
He’s making the most of the home cooking, making the turn Saturday at 4 under for the day at 12 under for the tournament.
Points will long be remembered for pairing with Bill Murray to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, not to mention the tournament proper – his first PGA TOUR win.
Since then, however, Points hasn’t showed much of that form. He has missed five cuts in 13 events since with just one top-20 finish, at T20 at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
His home-state event hasn’t been good to him recently, with missed cuts the last two years, but this year’s a different story.
Stricker, the two-time defending champion, said Illini Day should give him a boost, but admitted that that the support might also put pressure on him.
"You know, it can work both ways," he said. "If you're going well, you know, you can really ride that momentum. If you're playing poorly, you know, you feel like you're dragging everybody down with you. So it's hard. You want to play well and there's that little extra bit of pressure, but it's good to have that support."
Stricker also said Wednesday at the John Deere Classic that he will not be putting Titleist's new irons in play this week.
"I hit them and I really liked them, but I want to hit them some more at home, so probably after the British I'll give them some more time to hit," he said.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Earlier in the week, Travelers kicked off its “Chipping Challenge” here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where fans can take part in an interactive experience that includes taking a shot at a floating umbrella in the shape of the Travelers logo.
For every hole-in-one made there, Travelers will donate $100 to Camp Boggy Creek, Florida’s Hole in the Wall Camp, which is part of a group of non-profit residential summer camps serving children and families coping with cancer and other serious illnesses. Every fan who makes a hole-in-one will also receive an iPod shuffle or Titleist wedge.
In addition, D.A. Points will host a clinic there at 2:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
“Any time that we can raise money for [the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital], I always try to be involved,” said Points, whose nephew Carson was treated there for neuroblastoma, which is one of the worst but curable cancers for children. “I've donated some of my own money, my wife and I have, and you know, it's nice that Travelers is doing this to help raise money for Mr. Palmer's hospital.”
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.”