LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Brian Stuard had a chance to do something Saturday that only five other people had done on the PGA TOUR.
Instead, he "settled" for a career-low 62 Saturday that left him in a tie for eighth at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Stuard finds himself six strokes off the pace as he chases what would be his first TOUR win.
Stuard, who was playing the Nicklaus Private course, made the turn in 31 after making three birdies, an eagle and a bogey over the final six holes on the front nine.
He added birdies at Nos. 10 and 11, parred the 12th and then added two more birdies to get to 9 under for the day. An eagle at the 16th hole then put Stuard in position for the 59 but he was unable to birdie the par-3 17th and bogeyed No. 18.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Scott Stallings has rolled in three straight birdies to replace Roberto Castro at the top of the leaderboard at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foiundation.
Meanwhile. Brian Stuard, playing on the opposite nine at the Nicklaus course, is making a bid for the magical 59. He just eagled the 16th hole and is 11 under for the day with a par 3 and par 4 remaining. He's currently tied for second with Castro and Greg Chalmers at 17 under.
Stuard has made eight birdies, two eagles and one bogey.
Stallings, who has played 14 holes on the Nicklaus, is 7 under for the day and 20 under for the tournament. Stalllings, who is bidding for his third TOUR win in as many years, has yet to make a bogey this week.
Castro just finished off a 69 at La Quinta, while Chalmers is through 13 on the same course.
Second-year TOUR pro Sang-moon Bae, Kevin Streelman, Stewart Cink, Ricky Barnes and John Rollins are tied at 16 under. Streelman just completed a round of 66 at La Quinta while Bae shot 64 at at the Nicklaus Course and Rollins is 7 under through 15 holes there.
The cut line just went to 10 under after Phil Mickelson made a two-putt birdie at the 11th hole to get to 9 under. There are 73 players currently inside the cut line.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro reeled off three straight birdies on the front nine at La Quinta Saturday and has opened a two-stroke advantage in the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Scott Stallings, who has made a birdie and an eagle in his first six holes on the Nicklaus Course, is alone in second at 16 under. Darron Stiles, Ricky Barnes and Kevin Stadler, whose father Craig won this tournament in 1980, are another stroke behind.
Stewart Cink, who has gone back to a more fundamental approach with his swing after a lackluster 2012 campaign, heads a group of seven players tied at 14 under. Also in that logjam are James Hahn, who held a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman, Greg Chalmers, rookie David Lingmerth and Jason Kokrak.
With the cut looming Saturday afternoon, there are currently 78 players at 8 under or better. The number does not include four-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who has birdied two of his first three holes at the Palmer Course and is 7 under for the tournament.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- James Hahn says his cell phone has been "blowing up," and as if on cue, it rings.
"Sorry guys, I apologize. It's my mom," the PGA TOUR rookie grins as he sends the call to voice mail. She would have to wait for the specifics of the 67 that left him tied for the lead at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Hahn, who is playing in just his third TOUR event, was simply having too much fun entertaining the media at that moment in time. And he's smart enough, and he's been through enough, to realize that the good times don't always last.
"Any time that I play a good round, it feels good and makes me cherish the momentum a little bit more," Hahn said.
The 31-year-old started playing golf when he was 4, two years after he moved with his family to California from Korea. His father ran a driving range near the Oakland airport and Hahn calls himself a "Tin Cup kind of guy, just a driving-range rat" who learned the game from his dad and watching players like Davis Love III and Greg Norman on TV.
"I met Davis Love for the first time today, and I remember watching golf when he was in his prime and he still is in his prime, I think, a good long 20 years," Hahn said. "But I remember my dad would bring me in whenever these stars would be on the TV and he would say, 'Hey, I want you to swing like this guy.' And back then I guess that was the old school YouTube. In real-time, I guess."
It's been years since Hahn had a lesson -- TV or otherwise -- from his father, whose dream was to see Hahn or his older brother make it to the PGA TOUR. Instead of seeking counsel from Butch Harmon or Hank Haney or Sean Foley, though, Hahn can be found at his computer searching YouTube.
"And you guys might joke about that, about me," Hahn said. "... I mean, these are some really big names and I go on YouTube, so I just want to make my swing look pretty and I think it's been working so far."
Hahn was good enough to play golf at UC-Berkeley -- for a little while, at least. Extra curricular activities -- "college life," Hahn said with a shrug -- got in the way so the coach soured on him and put him on the bench. Hahn quit the team as a senior, which he says he regrets to this day, then went on to graduate and turn pro.
"I could have done a little differently, looking back, but for how young I was and how much, how stubborn I was back then, it's hard to blame kids for being kids," said Hahn.
The year after he graduated, the Bears won the NCAAs "and the running joke was they finally had to kick James off the team to win a championship," Hahn reported. It hurt. A lot. He admits to walking around with a chip on his shoulder for several years.
"When I graduated from college, I had every excuse in the book," Hahn said. "My parents weren't wealthy, we never belonged to a country club, I bought my golf clubs off e Bay, you know, we just never really had that much money for me to pursue golf as a career. So I was basically just making every excuse why I would not be successful."
And in a self-fulfilling prophecy, his first year as a pro wasn't a success. So Hahn quit the game and held a variety of odd jobs, working in an advertising agency and selling women's shoes at a department store.
Hahn grew up, though, and refocused himself. He eventually won on what is now called PGA TOUR Canada and the Web.Com Tour, earning his TOUR card when he finished sixth on the money list last year.
And depending on what happens over the next 36 holes in the California desert, reality just might become better than any dream Hahn has ever had.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Roberto Castro had a solid, if not spectacular rookie season in 2012.
He advanced to the second round of the FedExCup Playoffs and earned more than $755,000, which is hardly chump change. Along the way, the Georgia Tech grad kept his nose down and his eyes open, and the lessons he learned could pay dividends this week at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Castro opened with a career-low 63 that gave him a share of the first-round lead. He followed that up with a 67 at the Palmer Private course on a sun-drenched Friday to stay on top of the leaderboard, tied with PGA TOUR rookie James Hahn, one stroke ahead of the pack, despite a pair of bogeys in his last three holes.
"I played well all day," Castro said. "Some nice up-and-downs on the par fives for birdies, a couple slipped away there at the end, but yesterday I made a 50-footer on the last on a good putt. Today I felt like I hit a good putt and three-putted. So that's stuff over 72 holes that's going to even out."
Castro made the cut in six of his first seven starts a year ago, including a tie for 42nd here in the desert. The opportunity to play four rounds with regularity so early in his career didn't just help him get comfortable on the courses, Castro also took the opportunity to watch how his veteran playing partners handled themselves.
"When you play with guys when they're not leading and see what their habits are, you kind of see how that carries over when they are in contention, so I definitely learned that," Castro said. "And then the game plan this year, just try to have the same attitude I had last year, which was very grateful to be out here and keep a good perspective."
So which players impressed Castro the most? Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson -- players who have a similar studied approach to the game. Interestingly, Johnson sits two strokes behind Castro through 36 holes this week.
"I played with Stricker in Houston on Sunday and we were in 35th place to start the day," Castro recalled. "And he made a couple early bogeys and he made a couple late birdies and he was in 35th place probably on the 18th tee. And he was just grinding on that tee shot.
"And for a guy who finishes like third every week it was a meaningless week for him basically. But you could just see that he does the same thing every time. ... So I think about that all the time."
Not that anything he saw was particularly eye-opening. "It was just reinforcing that you are kind of on the right path, this is what these guys do, and they win tournaments," Castro said. "So keep on keeping on."
The former Tech All-American, who had two uncles and two younger brothers who played college golf, has also benefitted from picking the brain of his aunt, Jenny Lidback, who played the LPGA TOUR for 15 years. He used to spend spring break at her home in Scottsdale and they played together as often as their schedules permitted.
"Really for all through junior golf and a lot of college golf, we would talk on the phone a good bit," Castro said. "And she really, I think you heard Keegan say that about his aunt too, trying to win a tournament's the same no matter what TOUR you're on. And college golf especially, great experiences there. So she's had a big role in my golf."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- His putter was more obedient on Friday than it had been during the first round of the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
And while the end result was a pair of pars, those shots Phil Mickelson hit on the last two holes at the Nicklaus Course on Friday had the four-time major champion in a positive frame of mind heading into the all-important third round.
"Those were the best swings that I made," Mickelson explained. "It helps give me a little bit of direction heading into tomorrow's round. I had been playing very well coming in here. I've been amped up, excited, and I've been making some very over the top, quick swings and I haven't been my best.
"But those last two holes were very encouraging. I hope that I'll be able to get it dialed in tomorrow and I'll have to be a little bit sharper on the greens tomorrow."
Mickelson's 67 left him at 5 under for the tournament and two shots shy of what would have been the cut line if the Humana Challenge wasn't contested over three different courses. Instead, the cut comes Saturday after everyone has toured the trio so Mickelson heads to the Palmer Private Course, which also hosts the final round.
"I like that golf course," the two-time Humana Challenge champ said. "You get a hot putter you can shoot, 7, 8, 9 under there, it's been done, Duval shot 59 there. ... Those last two holes, again, I finally got my rhythm and I expect to play a good round tomorrow and get some momentum."
Mickelson made seven birdies on Friday, including four in his first seven holes to set the tone for the day. Fairways hit and greens in regulation were the same as in the first round but his 26 putts was an improvement of four strokes on the green.
"I feel much better," said Mickelson, who had been ill much of last week. "I was excited to get out and play. I thought that this was a great day to go low. I left a few shots out there, but the last couple holes were very encouraging to me. They were the first time that my rhythm kind of set in. ...
"Hopefully I'll carry that into tomorrow's round, get some momentum and then try and play well next week in San Diego."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- A year ago, Roberto Castro had modest goals when he played in the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
After all, the popular stop in the desert was just the second event in Castro's rookie year. He wanted to stay patient, and he felt if he could just break par for each nine he would be "hanging in there."
But Castro, who ended up tying for 42nd in 2012, has a different mindset this year. You've got to "get it going and keep it going," Castro learned, and that's exactly what he's done over the first two rounds.
Castro played the Palmer Private Course on Friday and shot 67 that enabled him to maintain a share of the lead with James Hahn, who shot the same score at La Quinta. Both players had opened with rounds of 63, as did Jason Kokrak.
Scott Stallings and Darron Stiles, who both played La Quinta, and Richard H. Lee, who birdied the last hole at the Palmer Course, are all one shot off the lead after rounds of 65. Kokrak is among nine players tied at 12 under, two strokes off the pace.
Joining Kokrak in a tie for sixth are rookies Lee Williams and David Lingmerth, Zach Johnson, Kevin Stadler, Charles Howell III, Greg Chalmers, Charley Hoffman and Aaron Baddeley. The best rounds among that group came from Lingmerth, who shot 8 under, and Williams and Howell, who shot 65s -- all on the Nicklaus Course.
Russell Henley, last week's winner who only had three bogeys in the first 90 holes of his rookie campaign, had a more adventurous round on Friday but remains in contention at 11 under. Henley had four birdies and an eagle in the second round but also dropped three shots to par.
The cut will be made on Saturday after everyone has played each of the three courses. Phil Mickelson, who is tied for 91st, still has some work to do -- although his round of 67 was five strokes better than his opener and a definite step in the right direction.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- No rookie has won in his first two starts on the PGA TOUR, but Russell Henley has a chance to do that this weekend at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Here are thoughts on Henley and a few other things to watch for in this weekend in my weekly Five for Friday:
1. The game keeps getting younger, and 20-something is the new 30-something on TOUR. Henley, of course, is among that group and is off to a terrific start in his rookie year. As I wrote in Monday Backspin, however, he's a rookie in name only given his background and success both as an amateur and the year he spent on the Web.com Tour. His scoring average through the first five rounds of this season was 64 with the former University of Georgia standout having already posted three 63s and a 64. To put that in perspective, there were only two players with five rounds of 64 or better for the entire season in 2012. Henley now has four in five rounds.
2. Don't forget about Phil Mickelson, though. He's a two-time winner of the event, its all-time leading money winner and has four top 10s in 10 career starts. Mickelson has some ground to make up this weekend to add to that, but he was seventh on TOUR in third-round scoring average last year so it's certainly not out of reach.
3. The wind is expected to pick up over the weekend, but not by much -- it'll only blow around 10 mph. In other words, expect more birdies.
4. Among the celebrities to watch for in the pro-am: Carson Daly, Craig T. Nelson, Michael Pena, Anthony Anderson, Alice Cooper and Michael Bolton. Daly grew up playing against Tiger Woods in California before he figured out it wouldn't be the best career path for him.
5. Don't read too much into Rory McIlroy (and Woods) missing the cut in Abu Dhabi. Yes, McIlroy is still adjusting to his new equipment, but some errant swings hurt him the most. Remember, McIlroy missed three of four cuts at one point on TOUR last year, and he still won four times and earned Player of the Year honors.