Akron native Armour contending at Cleveland Open
June 07, 2014
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
- June 07, 2014
- Ryan Armour is tied for third heading into the final round at the Cleveland Open. (Halleran/Getty Images)
MORE: Scores | Tee times | Round 3 Recap | Gallery: Round 3
WESTLAKE, Ohio – Ryan Armour fell into the same trap that has felled many golfers. He tried to find more yards off the tee and ended up lost.
The former Ohio State All-American and Akron native was a regular on the PGA TOUR from 2007-08 and the Web.com Tour from 2004-06 and 2009-12, but in an attempt to get longer he found himself off the tours entirely last year.
It’s been a journey to get back, but the Cleveland Open is revealing plenty. Armour is 10 under after a 5-under 66 on Moving Day at Lakewood, one off the lead shared by Mathew Goggin and Whee Kim. He’ll play in the final group with the leaders on Sunday.
“We did a good job of keeping it in front of us. This golf course is pretty claustrophobic, we did a good job of never having to pitch out. I didn’t even chip at all today,” Armour said. “I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways, that really helps around here.”
That wasn’t happening in 2012, when he missed 21 of 26 cuts on the Web.com Tour and finished 113th on the money list. Without status for 2013, he ended up on golf’s highway, trying to get by with Monday qualifiers and smaller Tours.
“It was frustrating, but it also put things in perspective – that I do love this game, love to work hard at it, I love what it brings to me and my family,” Armour said.
The 38-year-old got back to swing basics and away from the chase for yards, and earned his Web.com Tour status through last year’s qualifying tournament. Now he’s on the verge of perhaps his biggest moment as a pro.
“I just want to play good. It’s been so long since I’ve won a meaningful event,” said Armour, who has three runner-ups on the Web.com Tour. “I’ve got a lot of friends, family, even guys I met in the pro-am have come out with their kids. Being sort of local, it would mean a lot.”
Armour’s ties with the Cleveland Open go back 20 years, to when he played as an 18-year-old just out of high school. He doesn’t remember much about playing at Quail Hollow in Painesville, except that he missed the cut.
But a while back he was digging around his old bedroom at his parents’ house and found the program from the 1994 Cleveland Open, and saw how he had been paired with Tom Gillis.
Years after that, Armour and Gillis became good friends in South Florida where they both live. Gillis is also playing this week, tied for 25th.
TWO WEEKS LATER: Byron Smith, the Tour’s most recent winner at the Rex Hospital Open, put himself in position to make a run at back-to-back titles after a Saturday 66 at Lakewood. He’s four shots back in a tie for 10th.
He didn’t arrive in Cleveland especially relaxed, but that’s because he was enjoying all that comes with being a first-time winner.
“The phone swelled up quite a bit, there were old friends coming out of the woodwork that I didn’t know still kept up with me,” Smith said. “I didn’t have a chance to recharge, we celebrated and had some fun. I went bowling, played two slow-pitch softball games, had a lot of dinners with old pals.”
Then when he arrived earlier this week, he soaked up praise from fellow pros.
“I’d be lying if I said you didn’t feel like a hotshot, that your chest was puffed out a little bit more than usual. But that’s the game, you take hits for a while, week after week, all of a sudden it’s all worth it. I did feel more confident
“I know I’m playing my good golf and that when I do, it will put me somewhere up there on Sunday. It’s a nice feeling to know if you play good, you can win.”
He’s now a winner, but still not universally known. Smith was introduced on the first tee on Saturday as “Byron Scott.”
“He was one of the best Lakers,” the Southern California native said while backing off his tee shot, but otherwise unfazed by the gaffe.
“I’ve got that before, never on the first tee though,” he said after the round.
HAMILTON RISING: At age 48, Todd Hamilton knows where he’ll be in two years. In some ways, age 50 and the Champions Tour can’t get here fast enough.
But the 2004 British Open champion still believes he can compete in fields where just about everyone is younger than him. Some validation has come this week at the Cleveland Open, where he’s tied for 18th after a third-round 66 – his lowest competitive round this season.
“I’ve been playing well at home, but it doesn’t count. It seems like when I get in a tournament, I don’t do well. Maybe I’m pressing too much,” Hamilton said.
At Lakewood Country Club, he was a late arrival on Wednesday after hearing on Tuesday that he had a spot in the field. He only could get time on the range due to the pro-am filling the course, and found a swing key on the range to take to the first tee on Thursday. That, combined with some knowledge gleaned from friends and the hiring of a local caddie, got him off and running.
After rounds of 72-69, Hamilton made the cut for just the second time in seven Web.com starts this season, then got it going on Saturday with five birdies in 10 holes.
“I will say I like this course. I grew up in Illinois, these are the kinds of courses I grew up on,” Hamilton said.
Lakewood measures just over 7,000 yards at par 71, with tight corridors that take the driver out of big hitters’ hands – and that plays into Hamilton’s. Problem is, for him, that such a course is a rarity on the Web.com Tour.
But not so much on the Champions Tour.
“Yeah, I think it will be fun to do. I’ll hopefully be hitting shorter clubs into the par 5s,” Hamilton said. “It looks like all the guys that play out there have a good time.
“But I’m not saying that I can’t still play golf up to 50.”
BEER RUN: Next to the green at the par-3 16th is a pavilion sponsored by Great Lakes Brewing Company, a popular local brewer. And they have a smart promotion going.
When someone birdies the 16th, the pavilion empties as fans dash to the beer trailer. A clock counts down from three minutes, during which beers are half price.
“Every event should have something like this,” one fan said after Alexandre Rocha rolled in a birdie at 16. At one point on Saturday there was at least one birdie from seven straight groups.
But maybe that wouldn’t work so well at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.