By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Craig Stadler's health and game haven't been up to where they once were on the Champions Tour. But on Friday, armed with a new partner at the birdie-friendly Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, the Walrus was atop a leaderboard again.
Stadler, less than two months shy of 60, and 51-year-old Kirk Triplett teamed up for an 8-under 64 in the two-man team game, good for the early clubhouse lead. Both golfers play their ball and the best score counts on each hole.
Triplett had the hot putter in the group and Stadler called himself "the supporting cast," but that can sometimes be the case in the unique format. The bottom line was eight birdies and no bogeys at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
Triplett wasn't eligible for the event a year ago, while Stadler tied for 25th with Mike Goodes. Stadler hasn't won on the Champions Tour since a five-win 2004 season.
"I'm still competitive, I still think I can play. But I need to be more consistent," Stadler said. "With that comes four years of not competing very well, and not being as confident as I used to be. I have to work that back, I can't just get it overnight by hitting a couple of good shots."
Stadler, plagued by several years of health issues, said he isn't healthy enough to walk courses every day. But flat courses help, and Savannah fits that bill.
As far as the British Open goes, the lack of wind on Day 1 has been considered a good thing by many of the players. In Madison, Miss., where the heat index today is a sweltering 103 degrees, a breeze might be welcomed.
Clouds and scattered thunderstorms have made play today a little more bearable and Kirk Triplett took advantage, shooting a 5-under 67 that puts him near the top of the leaderboard.
Asked about the heat, Triplett replied, “I don’t see anything positive about it.”
Of course when the Viking Classic was played in October last year, Triplett tied for 59th.
Tournament director Randy Watkins told reporters the tournament wasn’t competing with hunting and football the way it did under its previous fall date, but dealing with the scorching sun of the South in the middle of July may be a bigger adversary.
For Triplett, he was able to make the weather work to his advantage, especially being a part of the morning wave when the sun is a little more forgiving.
“You know, it wasn't too bad today,” Triplett said. “Certainly, as the week wears on, it's going to be a little bit of endurance. So see who can kind of keep their concentration up. Sometimes the heat makes your mind wander a little.”
Triplett’s mind didn’t seem to be wandering too much, especially on the back nine where he kept up a nice rhythm of birdies and pars.
“It's very soft,” he said of Annandale GC. “If you drive a ball on the fairway, you've got a perfect lie every time.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
When Kirk Triplett says he’s just happy to be at the John Deere Classic, it’s not a cliché. Playing on past champion status for the last two years, Triplett can’t exactly pick and choose where and when he’ll play, so he’ll take what he can get -- especially when he makes eight birdies on his way to a 6-under 65 that has him near the top of the leaderboard.
“I'm the last guy in the field this week and thrilled just to get a chance to play, so I'm very happy to get some rounds under par and hopefully go out and try and catch lightning in a bottle on the weekend,” Triplett said.
At 49 years old, Triplett has plenty of experience at TPC Deere Run. But not getting regular reps doesn’t exactly make things easy for him.
“I'm not out here week in and week out so I’m not firing on all cylinders all the time,” he said. ”I'm always kind of wondering what's going to happen next kind of deal instead of, okay, we'll get after it this week and then see what happens next week, because quite often I'm not playing the following week.
“The last couple years have been difficult from that standpoint.”
That said, Triplett made things look pretty easy on Friday.
He birdied five of his first seven holes and then added three more on the back before making a bogey on the par-5 17th.
“This course fits my eye,” Triplett said. “It's tight in spots and open in other spots and has some elevation change. I've seen it under a bunch of different conditions, maybe more so than some guys.
“I think you just have to keep the gas pedal down. It's not the kind of course where you go out and get to 10 under and wait around and think a couple even pars are going to win the tournament for you. I remember even from the first year, very first year we played here I was in a playoff, and you just had to keep making birdies.”
The second round of the John Deere Classic is in full swing, and so are Steve Marino’s chances to get his first career win on the PGA TOUR.
There’s still a lot of golf left of course, but Marino has moved into a share of the lead at 12 under after playing his first dozen holes in 5 under.
But a few others are taking it even deeper than that with Chez Reavie, Kirk Triplett and Jhonattan Vegas all 7 under in various stages of their rounds. As a result, Reavie has a share of the lead while Triplett and Vegas are two back.
Triplett is the most interesting, or at least surprising, of those contenders. The 49-year-old is playing on past champion status for the second straight year and no doubt counting down the days until the Champions Tour. In the meantime, he’s cobbled together just 15 starts the last two years, which includes just four this year prior to this week.
Of those four starts, Triplett has made the cut twice and finished in the top 50 just once. He’s also played in four events on the Nationwide Tour, where his best finish was a tie for 12th at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented Synnex Corporation.
Obviously a good finish here would go a long, long way for the rest of Triplett’s season.
Phil Mickelson’s easiest path around Congressional Country Club may not be paved with as many 2-irons as he thought.
Talking Tuesday at his U.S. Open press conference, Mickelson backed off on his comments from a week ago that the Callaway X-Tour 2-iron would get heavy use.
“The 2-iron, I thought when I came out here originally, I thought I was going to use quite a bit, still might if the course plays hard and fast. But what I found is it's a little bit more playable for me with a driver, because I don't have to be perfect,” Mickelson said. “If I miss the fairway with the 2-iron I'm so far back that I'm not able to get it up on or by the green. If I hit driver and I happen to miss it, I'm 50 yards closer and I have an opportunity to now advance it up or by the green and salvage pars, and I feel that will give me the best chance to make pars on a lot of the holes.”
And that’s a singular “driver”, not “drivers” as he has employed at some majors. Though with Mickelson, one never knows for sure until game day.
MORE LONG BALL: In his pre-tournament press conference, Dustin Johnson said he won’t attack all of Congressional with his TaylorMade R11 driver – but that’s not to say it won’t come in handy on several holes.
“I try to hit every drive I hit in the fairway. This course, there's quite a few holes I can hit driver on. It's a mix, you know. I hit a few 3-irons off the tees. I hit a couple of 3-woods. I hit a few drivers,” Johnson said. “I'm not hitting driver on every hole and I'm not hitting iron off every tee. I think it's a great mix for me.
“Me and Joe (LaCava, his caddie), we're working on a game plan and our game plan is to hit whatever club we have the best chance of getting in the fairway. If it's wide where we hit the driver, we'll hit the driver. If it narrows up wherever the driver is going to go, we're going to hit a 3-wood. We just kind of are taking what the golf course gives us.”
Johnson plays an R9 3-wood and R9 TP irons.
THERE’S AN APP: If you have an iPhone 4 you probably already use it for PGATOUR.COM (of course) and other golf-related apps. Now check out what Ping is bringing to the party.
Ping’s new putting app allows you to clip the device to a putter and measure data capable of doing everything from putter fitting to measuring one’s stroke up against Ping pros such as Lee Westwood, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson. The accelerometers and gyroscopes built into the device measure a putting stroke's path, your tempo and the face angle of your putter at impact.
The app is free, while the clip that attaches the iPhone to the putter is $30. All that is missing is a sports psychologist to help with the yips. Maybe that’s a different app.
20 TO 10: Ping’s new G20 driver went into Lee Westwood’s bag at the start of last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, but didn’t make it to the weekend. He switched back to his regular G10 model, not wanting to make such a significant change on the eve of a major.
Kirk Triplett put one in play last week and is sticking with it for the U.S. Open. You can see the headcover here at Congressional behind a rather unusual headcover for a TOUR bag.
It’s overcast and showers are expected this afternoon in Greensboro. But with any luck, the lightning will stay away and the 71st Wyndham Championship will be delay-free.
As has been the case every day this week, there appear to be low rounds to be had at Sedgefield Country Club on Sunday. John Daly’s 64 is the low round of the day so far – although Kirk Triplett is also 6 under through 17 holes. And Jason Gore joined Daly at 11 under when he posted a 65.
Fredrik Jacobson is working on his fourth round in the 60s – he’s 6 under through 15 holes and 13 under for the tournament. Webb Simpson, who went to school at nearby Wake Forest – has just made the turn in 31 and also stands 13 under. – Helen Ross