Golf Buzz

June 24, 2014 - 5:34pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Bob Sowards
PGA of America
Bob Sowards fired a 2-under 70 in the third round of the PGA Professional National Championship on Tuesday.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Low scores have proven to be hard to come by in the third round of the 47th PGA Professional National Championship.

One of those low scores belonged to 2004 National Champion Bob Sowards. Sowards fired a 2-under 70 at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club Tuesday to get to 1 over for the week.

"I don't think the course could have played any easier yesterday and 5 under was leading," Sowards said. "I felt like Grand Dunes was the more gettable course. I know Jamie Broce is playing well. I don't know he's game well, but he seems to be the only one that's playing super. I still think anything under par can win this tournament. Another 2 under tomorrow would get me to 1 under for the tournament. Anything in red digits might have a chance."

RELATED: PNC leaderboard | PNC complete coverage | Photos | Video

The 46-year-old PGA Teaching Professional from New Albany Country Club in Ohio, had four birdies and two bogeys in the third round.

But it was a special par at the final hole to salvage the 2-under score that had Sowards smiling as he walked off the green

"That par putt on 18 was huge," he said. "I had just missed probably a 3-footer on 16 and an 8-footer, straight in putt on 17, so the 10-footer on 18 made up for it a little bit. It was huge to get in the house at 2 under instead of 1 under. It was a really good putt."

Heavy rains that fell early in the day softened the course a bit. That coupled with little wind seemed to mean prime conditions for low scores. But that just wasn't the case.

"Even though we had that rain earlier and there wasn't much wind, I think the course was still really tough today," Sowards said. "The greens are so new and so firm that it's tough to get it close when they start tucking the pins a little bit. They had a few tough pins out there today. But it's so slow out there. That's the main thing out there today -- it took over 5 1/2 hours to play. Whether it was the delay, or people grinding to make the 54-hole cut, or whatever, it was slow. I don't think the leaders will play in less than six hours. It's a grind out there."

Sowards, who has played in the PGA Championship on seven previous occasions, is looking forward to a chance to contend for a second title on Wednesday and a possible eighth PGA appearance.

"I feel great about going in to tomorrow," he said. "I played aggressive on pretty much every shot today and I feel like I played solid golf and didn't really give myself too many chances to make bogey. I gave myself a chance to make bogey on 18, but really made a good putt. If I can start making a few putts, I feel like I can shoot 4 or 5 under out there on this golf course." 

June 24, 2014 - 3:20pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Sonny Skinner
PGA of America
Sonny Skinner got himself right back in the mix at the PGA Professional National Championship with a 4-under 68 in Tuesday's third round.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Sonny Skinner made a big move in the right direction during the third round of the 47th PGA Professional National Championship on Tuesday.

Skinner, 53, winner of four consecutive Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards, fired a 4-under 68 at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club to get to 1-over 217 for the tournament.

"It's a very tough course, but I hope I made up some ground today," said Skinner, twice a runner up in the National Championship. "Everything started out soggy this morning. It took me 20 minutes to get out to the car because of the rain. I got to the course and we got a couple of holes in, but the bottom falls out again with the rain and we had a delay. But I feel pretty fortunate. I hit the ball pretty good for most of the day, there's no doubt. I putted very well today, which is always a good thing."

RELATED: PNC leaderboard | PNC complete coverage | Photos | Video

At the time of this post, Skinner had soared 67 spots on the leaderboard from a T83 to start the day to T16 when he finished. There's still plenty of golf left to be played, so that position could move in either direction before the third round ends.

Skinner erased a bogey on No. 3 with birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 to make the turn at 1-under 35. He made four birdies on the back -- Nos. 10, 14, 16 and 17 -- against a lone bogey on No. 12.

"The course being so wet, it was a lot softer, so you could fly it closer to the pin, so you could get a little more aggressive," he said. "I was on the outside looking in going into today and I had the mindset that I needed to shoot my best round of the week. I told my wife last night that I thought something in the 60s could get me up there and hopefully close to the top 20. Hopefully, by the end of the day, that 68 will have done that."

Skinner admitted that after the rains, the course was perhaps a touch easier than it had played before Tuesday.

"It was relatively benign out there after the storm compared to the first two days," he said. "The wind was very mild and didn't seem to be hurting on any hole. It was blowing out of the east. It was good to get a good round in the books -- I don't care how the wind is blowing, or how soft the greens were... they weren't that soft."

Skinner has nothing to prove to his peers out here, but he beams with pride after rounds like today.

"I just try to pay attention to the process of hitting good shots, one shot at a time," he said. "As you get older, you just want to keep getting up and going to work just to show that you've got some life in you. My grandmother lived to be 97 and she worked full time right up until the end. So I plan on playing golf full time as much as I can. I'm very thankful that the PGA gives us as many tournaments as they do to play, because everyone in this field enjoys playing as much as they can."

Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
Tiger Woods admitted Tuesday morning he didn't think he'd be far enough along in the rehabilitation process following back surgery in late March to be playing this week at the Quicken Loans National, but here he is.

Tiger Woods admitted Tuesday morning he didn't think he'd be far enough along in the rehabilitation process following back surgery in late March to be playing this week at the Quicken Loans National, but here he is.

"I'm probably ahead of schedule from where everyone thought I'd be at," Woods said during his news conference. "The British Open was supposed to be my first event back. I healed extremely fast. It's been an interesting road. It was quite a tedious little process. but I'm to the point where I can play competitive golf again and I'm excited."

INJURY INVENTORY: A history of injuries suffered by Tiger Woods

Woods said with the assistance of his surgeon and trainers, training exercises and cold treatments allowed him to "bounce back fast." Starting with the putter, Woods was able to progress to full swings with different clubs, eventally hitting drivers and playing rounds.

"The whole progression was putting first," Woods said. "You can putt the next day, hop right out of the recovery room and you're OK to putt. But I wasn't allowed to bend over and pick the balls out of the cup. ... Then chipping and pitching, adding about 10 yards every day to two days, depending on how I felt. I got to the point where I was hitting drivers a couple of weeks ago, and then started playing golf. I wanted to knock off some rust on the range so I didn't go out and embarrass myself. The worst thing is to sit in the cart. Sometimes I'll ride on the back of the cart, standing up, so I could get in a few more holes."

The scores didn't matter, Woods said, although he admitted he was very rusty right off the bat.

"I broke 50 for nine holes, just like i did when I was 3," Woods said with a smile. "I'm sneaking up on it. My prime's coming up."

MISSING THE MASTERS: Tiger Woods has back surgery on March 31

Woods said it's probably been two years since he's felt this good. First, it was the Achilles tendon that bothered him, then his back started acting up.

"It was week-to-week," Woods said. "There were times when it felt great -- I won five times last year -- and then others where it was so bad, I had to pull out of an event."

By the time the Florida swing came around in March, Woods said his back was so bad -- and the pain shooting down his leg was so debilitating -- he realized surgery was the only option.

"Pre-procedure, I wasn't able to function, I couldn't get out of bed, do any normal activities," Woods said. "When I had the issues with my knee and my Achilles, I was still able to do things. Anyone who has had nerve impingment, it's no joke. [After the surgery], that pain going down my leg was gone. It's like getting your life back."

After this week, Woods and his doctors will see how things went. His plan as of now is to take time off until the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 17-20.

NEW SPONSOR: Tiger lands Quicken Loans for Congressional

So does he think he can win this weekend? Of course, Woods said. Why else would he be here?

"Expectations don't change," he said. "That's the utlimate goal. It's justgoing to be harder this time. But I'm good enough to play and going to give it a go."

June 24, 2014 - 9:57am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
PGA Professional National Championship
PGA of America
At 9:26 a.m., however, players were called off the golf course immediately due to a dangerous situation. There has been heavy rain and scattered thundershowers in the area.

At 9:10 a.m. ET play was called during the third round of the 47th PGA Professional National Championship due to a non-dangerous situation, meaning players could finish the hole they were playing at The Dunes Club.

At 9:26 a.m., however, players were called off the golf course immediately due to a dangerous situation.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | PNC leaderboard | Labritz back after surgery

There has been heavy rain and scattered thundershowers in the area.

The forecast for the remainder of the day looks decent, calling for cloudy skies and less than a 15 percent chance of precipitation after 1 p.m.

UPDATE: Play resumed at 10:30 a.m.

June 23, 2014 - 7:28pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Karen Paolozzi
PGA of America
With a 1-under 71 at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club on Monday, Karen Paolozzi recorded the lowest score by a woman professional in National Championship history, and joined Suzy Whaley as the only other woman to make the cut in the championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- With a 4-under-par 32 on her back nine Monday, Karen Paolozzi shot a 1-under 71 at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club to became just the second woman professional to make the 36-hole cut in the PGA Professional National Championship.

Her round was the best ever recorded by a woman professional in this tournament as well.

Paolozzi's 36-hole total of 2-over 146 left her just six shots out of the lead.

"This is exactly what my goal was," said Paolozzi after joining Suzy Whaley at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course in 2005 as the only other woman professional to make the National Championship cut. "I wanted to make the cut. I wanted to come here and play well. I was a little disappointed after yesterday, but I knew if I put in a solid round today, I had a chance."

RELATED: PNC Leaderboard | PNC coverage | Labritz in hunt one month after surgery

After a bumpy front nine, things weren't looking so hot for the 31-year-old assistant professional from Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta. She made the turn in 3-over 39 after a double bogey at the seventh hole, but collected herself beautifully on the back.

Paolozzi air-mailed the 10th green with a 9-iron, but chipped in for an unlikely birdie.

"I was struggling a little bit with the greens, but I was hitting the ball pretty good," she said. "I was getting my yardages right. On No. 10, I was in the rough, just kind of in a crazy lie, so I flew the green. I thought, 'Oh, here we go again.' But I made a nice little chip and I happened to chip it in and that turned it all around for me. I got a little more confidence and then made that birdie on 11 after hitting a great shot in there. Making that birdie putt just got me going even more. The putter got really hot on the back side."

Paolozzi added birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 before closing out the round with a solid two-putt par at the last.

"I'm very happy with the round," Paolozzi said. "Today's conditions were different. There was a little bit more of a breeze, but it wasn't as hot. Yesterday was just so sticky and hot. The breeze actually felt good. It made the club selection a little more difficult, but you just have to decide what you're going to do and do it -- and hope that it's correct."

Paolozzi's driver, she said, was the key to her round.

"My driver was in really good shape today. I hit it really solid off the tee. Actually, on 17 I'm not supposed to hit driver, but I decided I was hitting it too well."

Paolozzi said she has received a warm welcome from her fellow male professionals throughout the week.

"A lot of the guys have been coming up to me and just congratulating me for making it here, which has been great," she said. "You always wonder what their thoughts are -- the different yardages are always a topic of discussion (Paolizzi played from roughly 900 yards shorter than the men on both courses) -- but most of the guys have come up and congratulated me on making it." 

June 23, 2014 - 5:25pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rob Labritz
PGA of America
On May 27, PGA Professional Rob Labritz underwent surgery to have his thyroid removed. Four weeks later, he's contending at the 47th PGA Professional National Championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Rob Labritz is truly happy to be at the PGA Professional National Championship this week, and not just because he's a participant and comfortably inside the cut line at 3-over 147 through 36 holes.

It's because it also means he's on the mend.

Labritz, 43, the PGA Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., is best known for the shot below. He holed out from 95 yards in a playoff at the 2013 National Championship from 95 yards to earn the final spot in the 2013 PGA Championship -- his fourth overall trip to the season's final major.

"There's a place in my teaching bay," Labritz explained. "There's this golf cart out there 95 to 108 yards. I ping it off the roof there all day with my assistant. When I had 95 yards left on that shot at Sunriver last year, I was like, 'Wow. This is the ping it off the roof shot.'

"I put a nice, comfortable swing on it and it was one of those shots that was just hit perfect -- and it went in and they caught it on TV. For the 30-40 years I've playing this game, everything came together in that moment. I think about it everyday. It keeps me moving. People say stuff to me. I'll be in an airport and someone might say, 'You're the guy that made that shot,' it's crazy stuff. I love it."

RELATED: PNC Leaderboard | PNC coverage | Meet Mickelson's college roommate

That shot has been highlighted many times leading up to this week's National Championship, but having Labritz back is extra special because he's here less than one month following surgery to have his thyroid removed on May 27 after being afflicted with Graves Disease. 

"It all started last year," Labritz said. "I started feeling funky on the golf course. When I would follow through, I'd start to shake. When I won Met PGA Player-of-the-Year last year, as I was putting my last putt out -- I had a 4- or 5-shot lead -- but I was really shaking. I said to myself, 'Wow. I must be really nervous.' After that, I said to my wife, 'I think I'm done playing, especially competitively. I can't go through this all the time. It's just not fun.' I didn't feel good."

Labritz's wife, Kerry, suggested that her husband pay a visit to the doctor's office and get checked out. After a blood test, the doctor told Labritz he had a thyroid problem. After more tests, it was determined he had Graves Disease, which is when the thyroid "is just screaming out hormones -- crazy, like off the charts," he explained.

All told, Labritz -- an incredibly fit man before all this began -- lost 47 pounds that he didn't exactly have to lose.

"Can you imagine being on hyperdrive all the time?" Labritz said. "I was in fight-or-flight mode pretty much 24/7 for about a year, year and a half and didn't even know it," he said. "My heart was 95 beats per minute resting. I was walking the fairways really fast and barking at my caddie to keep up. It was just one of those things where I was in overdrive and didn't know it."

And that was the reason for the surgery. No one wants something wrong health-wise, but when something's not right, it's at least comforting to be able to give it a name.

"There were three options since it was Graves Disease: take the thyroid out, radiate it, or live with it and medicate it," Labritz said. "I didn't want to radiate it and I didn't want to live with it and take medication the rest of my life, so I had it removed. It's been four weeks now and I'm feeling much better. After losing 47 pounds, I've already put 15 pounds back on."

Let that sink in. Four weeks ago, Labritz was under the knife. On Monday, he shot a 1-under 71 at Grande Dunes in the second round of the National Championship to get to 3-over, will comfortably make the halfway cut and has a chance to make a run at a fifth PGA Championship berth.

Right now, Labritz estimates, he's playing at 70 percent strength.

"When you lose that much weight, you get weak," he said. "I was weak. It was bad. I've been doing two-a-day workouts. I do 45 minutes to an hour in the morning and 45 minutes to an hour at night. Just total muscle building and some cardio. The shakes are gone on the course -- now it's just the nervous part. Everybody's nervous, but nervous is good. I can hit putts and not shake anymore."

Labritz said he came into this week -- his first start since recovering from surgery -- expecting nothing. But, ever since he was cleared by his doctors to workout and practice two weeks ago, he's been full tilt.

"All my days were very regimented -- they were long days," he said. "But I worked out and I practiced -- even though I didn't feel great and they said don't push it -- I used every minute to get ready for this. I'm playing all right.

"I went from not having any expectations to actually starting to hit the ball really good and not making any putts," he added. "I found myself getting frustrated out there and I'm like, 'Dude, you don't have any right!' But that's what golf does to you. And of course, now that I'm hitting it well I want to make some putts and win."

Since the surgery, Labritz said he has to take a pill every morning that he will take for the rest of his life.

"They said I'm living with a disease, but it's not a disease that's going to kill you, unless it's not taken care of," he said. "It makes me live each day better, because you never know what's going to happen. Stuff happens all the time. You've got to go day by day. It's crazy.

"This whole situation has put things in perspective for me. I'm taking things slower. I'm walking the fairways slower. I'm going to enjoy relationships more and try to never do anything wrong. I don't want to do anything wrong. The world is just a better place when people act right."