By Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
Former PGA TOUR winner Garrett Willis, Michael Maness, Jon Mills and Chris Wilson survived a six-man playoff in the Monday qualifier to earn their way into this week’s Greenbrier Classic at The Old White TPC.
Six golfers shot a 6-under 66 on the Cobb Course at Glade Springs, W. Va., to force the playoff. Ryan Blaum and Christopher Ross were the players eliminated.
Willis has played in seven events this year on the PGA TOUR, making three cuts. The 38-year-old East Tennessee State product who lives in Charlotte put his name in the PGA TOUR history books at the 2001 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open when he became only the third card-holding member to win in his first start, joining Ben Crenshaw (1973) and Robert Gamez (1990).
The last time Maness stepped onto a PGA TOUR course, it was as a caddie for his friend Bill Haas. The 31-year-old native of Greenville, S.C. has bounced back and forth from the bags to the mini-tours after playing collegiately at South Carolina. Maness has three career starts on the Web.com Tour, most recently tying for 16th at the 2007 National Mining Association Pete Dye Classic.
Mills, a 34-year-old native of Ontario, Canada and former golfer at Kent State, turned professional in 2002. By 2003, after just three events, Mills, who played more hockey than golf as a youth, became the first Canadian to win the Canadian Tour Order of Merit since Mike Weir in 1997.
Mills came close to winning his third Web.com Tour event a year ago with a runner-up finish at the Melwood Prince George's County Open Presented by Under Armour. This season he has one cut made in five starts on the Web.com Tour.
Chris Wilson, a 27-year-old Columbus, Ohio native who played golf at Northwestern, is looking at positives this week after a slow start in 2012 -- having made only two cuts in 11 starts on the Web.com Tour this year. He tied for 25th in March at the Panama Claro Championship, but his 66 in the qualifier is his lowest round of the year by two shots.
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- At 135th on the money list entering the week, Paul Casey needs to play well to secure his PGA TOUR card for next season. That sounds strange given Casey’s ability, but he’s battled injury all year and has played in just 13 events.
Well, he’s putting together the kind of performance he needs. He just made the turn to the front here at CordeValle in 31, making six birdies -- including four in a row to close out the back -- and just one bogey. That moves Case into a share of the lead at the moment with Garrett Willis at 6 under.
Another shot back from that is Shane Bertsch, while Bud Cauley is one of three players currently at 4 under. Without status this year, Cauley could use a good performance as well.
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- Thanks to a couple of early birdies on Nos. 4 and 6, Garrett Willis, who shared the overnight lead with three others, has broken from the pack in the early goings of the second round.
This was Willis’ third first-round lead/co-lead on TOUR. His others came at the 2010 Transitions Championship, where he tied for 72nd and at this year’s RBC Heritage, where he tied for ninth. In his only other start at the Frys.com Open in 2007, Willis opened with rounds of 69-69-70 and then withdrew after the third round.
At 137th on the money list at the start of the week, it would behoove Willis to have a strong finish here as he tries to climb into the top 125 to secure his card for next year.
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- At 137th on the money list coming into the week, Garrett Willis needs to play well if he wants to climb into the top 125 and secure his PGA TOUR card for next season. That’s exactly what he did Thursday with a 4-under 67 to share the lead with Brenden Steele, Briny Baird ad Matt Bettencourt at the Frys.com Open.
The performance by Willis, and the others, was impressive given not only the circumstances but the weather.
“I didn't like it one bit,” Willis said of what was a cold, wet day with at times heavy rain. “The way that rain was coming down, it was pretty amazing they continued play, but I was just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it would either stop or they'd call play. It was about as tough of conditions I've ever played in.”
He barely showed it, making just one bogey on the day.
For Willis, it’s the second week in a row he’s opened strong. Last week he carded a 65 in the first round in Las Vegas before finishing in a tie for 34th.
But it’s only the first round and Willis is trying not to get ahead of himself and what a win could mean for him.
“I won't think about that,” he said. “I mean obviously if I'm in this position come Saturday night, I'll think about it, but like I said, this is a tough golf course. I'm glad I got this round under my belt, and like I said, I'm still grinding away trying to make the cut. I'm not even thinking about winning golf tournaments. I'm thinking about being able to play on Saturday morning.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Not everyone is taking the belly putter plunge, though it may feel so on TOUR these days. Some, if you will, are just exchanging information instead of full-fledged dating.
Garrett Willis played with a belly putter at a Beaufort, S.C., course early in the week of The Heritage, used one in a practice round at Harbour Town and continued to work with one on the putting green early Thursday before Round 1. He auditioned some 10 putters during the week, including bellies.
But he just couldn’t take a belly putter to the course when it counted. He sent his caddie to the car to get “Old Faithful” just before the round, a Scotty Cameron prototype he had been using for more than five years.
“I've been having 31, 32, 33 putts a round, which is leading to a lot of missed cuts. And this week is the week I'm going to break away, I'm going to do it, I'm going to switch,” Willis said. “I say that almost every week, but I don't have the guts enough to do it.”
Lack of guts served him well Thursday, as he opened with 64 and ultimately finished T9. And he was, ahem, fourth in putting average.
There’s something to be said for those Old Faithfuls.
NEW WEAPON: Heritage champion Brandt Snedeker carried an Adams Idea Pro a12 hybrid, a new club that will be available to the public in early May. The black-headed club is available in lofts from 16 to 26 degrees and features a steel sole plate with a weight screw inside. Check it out here.
MORE TWEAKS: Matt Kuchar added three inches to his TaylorMade Rossa Corza Ghost putter earlier this year, then two more, to get to a current length of 45 inches. And as he said at The Heritage, he’s not done yet.
“I don't know that it's perfect, but I actually have added an extra degree of loft. So I'm continuing to refine it still and probably will continue to make sure that it's right, may even fiddle with a couple of different putter heads,” said Kuchar, who’s 17th in putting average. “I'm very happy with the way I'm putting and very happy with the putter. It's all new and I want to make sure it's all right.”
RED HOT: Odyssey putters claimed not just winner Snedeker (White Hot XG Rossie) but the entire top 5 at The Heritage. Luke Donald wielded an XG #7H model, Tommy Gainey had a Backstryke Blade, Tim Herron had a White Hot 2-Ball and Ricky Barnes used a White Ice #9 model.
DIALED DOWN: Golf World wrote that Long John Daly wasn’t quite himself at The Heritage – he didn’t have a driver in the bag for the tight, short Harbour Town Golf Links. His only wood was a 13.5-degree TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 2.0 3-wood.
FREE STUFF ALERT: TaylorMade is launching a campaign for its five-layer Penta TP ball, headlined on TOUR by defending FedExCup champion Jim Furyk, which involves giving away 50,000 free six-packs of the product. Go to taylormadegolf.com/testpenta to register (hint: read the rules and regulations to better your chances).
One of the candidates for the shot of the day? Jason Day’s hole-out from the bunker. Click here to watch .
Camilo Villegas drains a 16-footer for birdie: Click here to watch
Garrett Willis rolls in an 18-footer for birdie: Click here to watch
With a bunched leaderboard and a course that’s susceptible to birdies, one bad swing is all it can sometimes take to drop down the leaderbord. Case in point: Luke Donald.
The Englishman had been cruising along, sitting atop the leaderboard through the first two rounds at Harbour Town -- until he yanked his second shot left and out of bounds on the par-5 second hole. He went on to make double bogey and as a result has fallen a shot off a lead that was his after a second-round 65.
Now there are three players tied at the top, including defending champion Jim Furyk and Camilo Villegas. Garrett Willis is also at 9 under.
In all, there are 18 players within three shots of the lead on what looks like will be a pretty big moving day.
By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Don’t forget about me, first-round Heritage leader Garrett Willis said with his actions on Friday.
Willis followed his first-round 64 with a 69 on Friday and is one stroke behind Luke Donald going into the weekend at Harbour Town. Willis had four birdies and two bogeys for the day – he made bogey at No. 1 and No. 10. He got some revenge at No. 9, making a 10-foot putt for birdie on a hole that he bogeyed the first day.
Willis was more effective off the tee, hitting 11 of 14 fairways, but hit just 12 greens in regulation, three fewer than in the first round. He continues to putt well and has yet to miss a putt inside of 10 feet.
Willis is now 4-for-4 when it comes to making the cut at The Heritage. A solid weekend will enable him to beat his best finish at the tournament, when he tied for 38th in 2003.
GARRETT WILLIS' SCORECARD:
The best videos from the first round of The Heritage. We’ll update this entry all day with new videos:
|Zach Johnson birdied from the back of the green on the first||Click to watch|
|Stewart Cink rolled in a 23-footer for birdie on the 10th||Click to watch|
|Bill Haas birdied the iconic 18th to go out in 30 on Thursday||Click to watch|
|Brendan Steele was off and running in his bid to go back-to-back||Click to watch|
|Camilo Villegas chips in from 43 feet for eagle at No. 5||Click to watch|
|Fredrik Jacobson sinks 31-foot birdie putt at No. 16||Click to watch|
|Matt Kuchar rolls in 17-foot putt at No. 12||Click to watch|
AFTER THEIR ROUNDS
|Tim Herron talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Matt Bettencourt talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Arjun Atwal talks about his 6-under 65||Click to watch|
|Garrett Willis talks about his 7-under 64||Click to watch|