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Walker's lesson: Remain 'in the moment'

Jimmy Walker
USA Today Images
Jimmy Walker finished with a final-round 70 Sunday to win his hometown tournament.

One of the great things about golf is the relaxing pace. But that can also be a downfall. In a three- to four-hour round, the average golfer takes between 70 and 100 swings, leaving a lot of time in between shots to think about anything but golf.

It's difficult to stay focused on any task for that amount of time, even for PGA Tour pros. With so much at stake -- and the pressures, both externally and self-imposed -- it's no surprise that one bad stretch can snowball into a horrible round.

VALERO TEXAS OPEN: Walker wins in hometown | What's in Walker's bag?

Consider that in the last nine tournaments prior to Sunday's Valero Texas Open, the third-round leader had failed to maintain that advantage on the final day. That is, until Jimmy Walker shook off some early bogeys at TPC San Antonio to finish with a flourish, and the victory. Even though his lead grew to a sizeable margin during the round, Walker didn't let up -- making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to slam the door shut.

He remained "in the moment," according to PGA Professional Nicole Weller, director of instruction at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga. Walker was able to maintain his focus on the task, rather than allowing his mind to wander toward the result. And it's something amateur players can learn from.

It happens to everyone, even Weller. She remembered playing in a national women's tournament at Pinehurst No. 8 and was 5-under with two holes to play.

"Then on No. 17, I started thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I'm 5-under," Weller said. "And I three-jacked 17 and I think I doubled 18 because I flew the green. It's almost like it gets into your head."

Why does this happen? Weller said it's because golf is a closed-skill sport.

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"In sports psychology, it means you really don't do anything in the motion until you act upon it yourself -- much like a free throw in basketball or a serve in tennis," she said. "Those types of actions allow for a lot of thought and preparation. And sometimes, there's too much thought involved.

It's a topic that's intrigued Weller for some time. Her master's thesis was on the timing of a pre-shot routine. And her research led to some interesting observations.

"Players on Tour who were on top that week, if you time their pre-shot routines, they vary by less than second," Weller said. "The players down on the money list that week, their routines can vary by well over five seconds. So there's a lot of variation in thinking."

There are three parts to a pre-shot routine, Weller said: the physical preparation, the mental planning and the emotional belief system.

"That's where people get derailed," Weller said. "They just go into places that they don't trust. They get side-tracked. Most of the time, it's the 'what if,' going into the future. You have to play every shot as it comes and be 'in the now.' 

"The story you need to tell yourself when you're standing over a shot has to be a good one, and it has to be something you believe in. You have to commit to what you've decided to do."

MORE LESSONS: Hone your mental game in practice

As a certified instructor for Spirit of Golf, Weller said there's a simple solution to the emotional aspect of the pre-shot routine.

"One thing you can do is find a word that you can use as part of your pre-shot routine," she said. "It not only gets you focused but you have to believe in it. Some words are designed to fire you up, some words are designed to calm you, depending on the situation."

For Weller, her word is "freedom."

"I love feeling free to do the shot that's at hand," she said.

Remaining "in the moment" requires two things, Weller said. One, you have to be aware when negative thoughts start to creep into your routine. Two, you have to be able to detach, shift your thoughts to something positive and embrace the idea before you ever take the club back.

That's the basic premise behind noted peak performance coach Tim Kremer's coaching philosophy in Spirit of Golf. It's all about trusting in your abilities and having a positive mindset, Weller said.

"If fear creeps in, even if it's just 1 percent, that crack widens open and there's no trust there," Weller said. "If you're 100 percent psyched about what you're about to do, there's no room for bad thoughts to come in."

 

 

 


 

By Mark Aumann
PGA.com

Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Monday, March 30, 2015 | 5:29 a.m.

One of the great things about golf is the relaxing pace. But that can also be a downfall. In a three- to four-hour round, the average golfer takes between 70 and 100 swings, leaving a lot of time in between shots to think about anything but golf.

It's difficult to stay focused on any task for that amount of time, even for PGA Tour pros. With so much at stake -- and the pressures, both externally and self-imposed -- it's no surprise that one bad stretch can snowball into a horrible round.

VALERO TEXAS OPEN: Walker wins in hometown | What's in Walker's bag?

Consider that in the last nine tournaments prior to Sunday's Valero Texas Open, the third-round leader had failed to maintain that advantage on the final day. That is, until Jimmy Walker shook off some early bogeys at TPC San Antonio to finish with a flourish, and the victory. Even though his lead grew to a sizeable margin during the round, Walker didn't let up -- making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to slam the door shut.

He remained "in the moment," according to PGA Professional Nicole Weller, director of instruction at The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga. Walker was able to maintain his focus on the task, rather than allowing his mind to wander toward the result. And it's something amateur players can learn from.

It happens to everyone, even Weller. She remembered playing in a national women's tournament at Pinehurst No. 8 and was 5-under with two holes to play.

"Then on No. 17, I started thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I'm 5-under," Weller said. "And I three-jacked 17 and I think I doubled 18 because I flew the green. It's almost like it gets into your head."

Why does this happen? Weller said it's because golf is a closed-skill sport.

"In sports psychology, it means you really don't do anything in the motion until you act upon it yourself -- much like a free throw in basketball or a serve in tennis," she said. "Those types of actions allow for a lot of thought and preparation. And sometimes, there's too much thought involved.

It's a topic that's intrigued Weller for some time. Her master's thesis was on the timing of a pre-shot routine. And her research led to some interesting observations.

"Players on Tour who were on top that week, if you time their pre-shot routines, they vary by less than second," Weller said. "The players down on the money list that week, their routines can vary by well over five seconds. So there's a lot of variation in thinking."

There are three parts to a pre-shot routine, Weller said: the physical preparation, the mental planning and the emotional belief system.

"That's where people get derailed," Weller said. "They just go into places that they don't trust. They get side-tracked. Most of the time, it's the 'what if,' going into the future. You have to play every shot as it comes and be 'in the now.' 

"The story you need to tell yourself when you're standing over a shot has to be a good one, and it has to be something you believe in. You have to commit to what you've decided to do."

MORE LESSONS: Hone your mental game in practice

As a certified instructor for Spirit of Golf, Weller said there's a simple solution to the emotional aspect of the pre-shot routine.

"One thing you can do is find a word that you can use as part of your pre-shot routine," she said. "It not only gets you focused but you have to believe in it. Some words are designed to fire you up, some words are designed to calm you, depending on the situation."

For Weller, her word is "freedom."

"I love feeling free to do the shot that's at hand," she said.

Remaining "in the moment" requires two things, Weller said. One, you have to be aware when negative thoughts start to creep into your routine. Two, you have to be able to detach, shift your thoughts to something positive and embrace the idea before you ever take the club back.

That's the basic premise behind noted peak performance coach Tim Kremer's coaching philosophy in Spirit of Golf. It's all about trusting in your abilities and having a positive mindset, Weller said.

"If fear creeps in, even if it's just 1 percent, that crack widens open and there's no trust there," Weller said. "If you're 100 percent psyched about what you're about to do, there's no room for bad thoughts to come in."

 

 

 


 


Kelly Kraft wins Web.com Tour's Louisiana Open

BROUSSARD, La. (AP) — Kelly Kraft won the Louisiana Open on Sunday for his first Web.com Tour title, closing with a 6-under 65 for a one-stroke victory at Le Triomphe.

The 26-year-old former SMU player had a 14-under 270 total and earned $99,000. He birdied Nos. 15-17 and finished with a par on the par-4 18th.

D.H. Lee and Rhein Gibson tied for second. Lee birdied for the final two holes for a 63. Gibson bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14 and closed with four straight pars for a 71.


Series: Web.com Tour

Published: Monday, March 30, 2015 | 12:10 a.m.

BROUSSARD, La. (AP) — Kelly Kraft won the Louisiana Open on Sunday for his first Web.com Tour title, closing with a 6-under 65 for a one-stroke victory at Le Triomphe.

The 26-year-old former SMU player had a 14-under 270 total and earned $99,000. He birdied Nos. 15-17 and finished with a par on the par-4 18th.

D.H. Lee and Rhein Gibson tied for second. Lee birdied for the final two holes for a 63. Gibson bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14 and closed with four straight pars for a 71.


Champions: Frost wins by 1

SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) — David Frost survived a one-stroke penalty on the par-3 17th and won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on Sunday when Tom Lehman missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

The 55-year-old South African finished with a 4-under 68 at Fallen Oak for a one-stroke victory over 2011 winner Lehman and second-round leader Kevin Sutherland.

Frost was penalized after the coin marking his ball on the green moved when he accidentally dropped the ball on it. That left him with a bogey and cut his lead to a stroke.

"I marked the ball and as I picked it up, the ball just kind of slipped out of my hand, hit the coin and moved it," Frost said. "I knew exactly where it was and I just moved it back and didn't think there was a penalty at all because I knew exactly where it was.

"There is some kind of rule that says in the act of marking the ball if you drop your coin. They told me I dropped the ball, which is an act of negligence and had to incur a one-stroke penalty. I was like, `You've got to be kidding me. Last year disqualified and this year a one-shot penalty.'

"It was frustrating. You play by the rules and luckily for me in the end it didn't make any different and I'm happy Lehman didn't beat me in a playoff."

Frost, disqualified last year for moving a stone in a bunker, made a testy-5-footer for par on the final hole to get to 10-under 206, then waited as Lehman missed virtually the same putt for birdie.

"I guess, just misread it," Lehman said about the putt that slipped by the right edge of the cup. "I thought I hit a good putt. It certainly it didn't do what I thought it was going to do. I thought it was going to break left and it didn't."

After playing the front nine in 1 under with a bogey and two birdies, Frost birdied Nos. 11-13 to take the lead and made another birdie on No. 15.

"Every victory you do accomplish holds a special place," Frost said. "This is a very special victory for me."

Lehman closed with a 70, and Sutherland had a 72.

Joe Durant was fourth at 8 under after a 69. Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie and Woody Austin each shot 70s to finish at 7 under.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Series: Champions Tour

Published: Sunday, March 29, 2015 | 11:29 p.m.

SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) — David Frost survived a one-stroke penalty on the par-3 17th and won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic on Sunday when Tom Lehman missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

The 55-year-old South African finished with a 4-under 68 at Fallen Oak for a one-stroke victory over 2011 winner Lehman and second-round leader Kevin Sutherland.

Frost was penalized after the coin marking his ball on the green moved when he accidentally dropped the ball on it. That left him with a bogey and cut his lead to a stroke.

"I marked the ball and as I picked it up, the ball just kind of slipped out of my hand, hit the coin and moved it," Frost said. "I knew exactly where it was and I just moved it back and didn't think there was a penalty at all because I knew exactly where it was.

"There is some kind of rule that says in the act of marking the ball if you drop your coin. They told me I dropped the ball, which is an act of negligence and had to incur a one-stroke penalty. I was like, `You've got to be kidding me. Last year disqualified and this year a one-shot penalty.'

"It was frustrating. You play by the rules and luckily for me in the end it didn't make any different and I'm happy Lehman didn't beat me in a playoff."

Frost, disqualified last year for moving a stone in a bunker, made a testy-5-footer for par on the final hole to get to 10-under 206, then waited as Lehman missed virtually the same putt for birdie.

"I guess, just misread it," Lehman said about the putt that slipped by the right edge of the cup. "I thought I hit a good putt. It certainly it didn't do what I thought it was going to do. I thought it was going to break left and it didn't."

After playing the front nine in 1 under with a bogey and two birdies, Frost birdied Nos. 11-13 to take the lead and made another birdie on No. 15.

"Every victory you do accomplish holds a special place," Frost said. "This is a very special victory for me."

Lehman closed with a 70, and Sutherland had a 72.

Joe Durant was fourth at 8 under after a 69. Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie and Woody Austin each shot 70s to finish at 7 under.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Canada's Sue Kim wins Symetra Tour event

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) — Sue Kim won the Symetra Tour's Florida's Natural Charity Classic on Sunday, leading a Canadian sweep of the first three places.

Kim, the 24-year-old former University of Denver player from Langley, British Columbia, closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 5-under 211 at Lake Wales Country Club.

Kim earned $18,750 to take the lead on the money list with $20,201. The final top 10 will earn 2016 LPGA Tour cards.

"Words can't describe how important a win is out here," said Kim, who moved from South Korea to Canada when she was 10. "This is definitely a confidence booster and lets me know that I can go back out on LPGA and compete. This win definitely gives me a good mindset to go back out there."

Sisters Brooke and Brittany Henderson tied for second, three strokes back. The 17-year-old Brooke Henderson finished with a 70, and Brittany Henderson shot a 74.

"It's a really good feeling," Brooke Henderson said. "It would've been better to be one and two, but Sue had a great week and I'm happy for her."

Kim opened with rounds of 70 and 71 and was the only player in the field under par all three days.

"It was a great tournament for me from the first day forward," Kim said. "I had the right people around me this week to get me in position to win. It was a great patient tournament for me to grab the 'W.'"


Series: Other Tour

Published: Sunday, March 29, 2015 | 10:19 p.m.

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) — Sue Kim won the Symetra Tour's Florida's Natural Charity Classic on Sunday, leading a Canadian sweep of the first three places.

Kim, the 24-year-old former University of Denver player from Langley, British Columbia, closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 5-under 211 at Lake Wales Country Club.

Kim earned $18,750 to take the lead on the money list with $20,201. The final top 10 will earn 2016 LPGA Tour cards.

"Words can't describe how important a win is out here," said Kim, who moved from South Korea to Canada when she was 10. "This is definitely a confidence booster and lets me know that I can go back out on LPGA and compete. This win definitely gives me a good mindset to go back out there."

Sisters Brooke and Brittany Henderson tied for second, three strokes back. The 17-year-old Brooke Henderson finished with a 70, and Brittany Henderson shot a 74.

"It's a really good feeling," Brooke Henderson said. "It would've been better to be one and two, but Sue had a great week and I'm happy for her."

Kim opened with rounds of 70 and 71 and was the only player in the field under par all three days.

"It was a great tournament for me from the first day forward," Kim said. "I had the right people around me this week to get me in position to win. It was a great patient tournament for me to grab the 'W.'"


LPGA: Kerr wins Kia

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) -- Cristie Kerr ran off four straight birdies on the back nine and closed with a 7-under 65 to win the Kia Classic on Sunday for her first LPGA Tour title in nearly two years.

Starting the final round three shots behind, Kerr was in a three-way tie for the lead at Aviara Golf Club when she pulled away from Mirim Lee and 17-year-old Lydia Ko. Her fourth straight birdie was on the 16th hole when she drove the green and two-putted from 20 feet.

It was her 17th career win, and her first since May 2013 at the Kingsmill Championship.

Kerr's two-shot victory over Lee (70) ended a stretch of seven straight LPGA events won by South Korean-born players dating to the CME Group Tour Championship last year.

"I love to win," Kerr said. "Golf has always been great to me, always given me special moments like this."

Ko was tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-3 14th hole, but the No. 1 player in women's golf didn't make another birdie the rest of the way. She lipped out on a 5-foot putt on the 16th and finished with a three-putt bogey on the 18th for a 67 to finish third.

It was her 28th consecutive round under par on the LPGA Tour, one short of the record Annika Sorenstam set in 2004. Ko's next event is the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills, the first LPGA major of the year.

"Last three holes were a little iffy, like yesterday, but 67 around here is good and I've improved my placing compared to last year, so a lot of positives to take from this week," Ko said. "And I'm excited for the first major next week."

Ko had her 10th consecutive finish in the top 10.

Kerr opened up a three-shot lead with her fourth straight birdie. Lee, playing in the final group behind her, drove the 16th green to within 4 feet for eagle to get within one shot. Her next tee shot wasn't nearly as good. She pushed it into the trees and chopped her way to a double bogey on the par-5 17th that effectively cost her any chance of winning.

Kerr finished with a three-putt bogey on the 18th and still broke by six shots the 72-hole record at the Kia Classic, which began in 2010. She finished at 20-under 268.

The 37-year-old American couldn't hold back tears after she won. The father of her caddie, Greg Johnston, died a week ago and Kerr said she wanted to win it for both of them. It also was her first victory since becoming a mother at the end of 2013. Her son, Mason, was in a stroller behind the 18th green.

"I've been working with a new coach, and I definitely found something this week," Kerr said. "He said I was going to have a hot round, and he was right. I just found something. I'm just real happy right now."

Kerr had gone 42 starts on the LPGA Tour without winning until Sunday at the Kia Classic.

Ilhee Lee became the third player this week to match the course record with a 64. Morgan Pressel had a 64 in the second round, and Se Ri Pak had one in third Saturday.


Series: LPGA Tour

Published: Sunday, March 29, 2015 | 9:14 p.m.

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) -- Cristie Kerr ran off four straight birdies on the back nine and closed with a 7-under 65 to win the Kia Classic on Sunday for her first LPGA Tour title in nearly two years.

Starting the final round three shots behind, Kerr was in a three-way tie for the lead at Aviara Golf Club when she pulled away from Mirim Lee and 17-year-old Lydia Ko. Her fourth straight birdie was on the 16th hole when she drove the green and two-putted from 20 feet.

It was her 17th career win, and her first since May 2013 at the Kingsmill Championship.

Kerr's two-shot victory over Lee (70) ended a stretch of seven straight LPGA events won by South Korean-born players dating to the CME Group Tour Championship last year.

"I love to win," Kerr said. "Golf has always been great to me, always given me special moments like this."

Ko was tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-3 14th hole, but the No. 1 player in women's golf didn't make another birdie the rest of the way. She lipped out on a 5-foot putt on the 16th and finished with a three-putt bogey on the 18th for a 67 to finish third.

It was her 28th consecutive round under par on the LPGA Tour, one short of the record Annika Sorenstam set in 2004. Ko's next event is the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills, the first LPGA major of the year.

"Last three holes were a little iffy, like yesterday, but 67 around here is good and I've improved my placing compared to last year, so a lot of positives to take from this week," Ko said. "And I'm excited for the first major next week."

Ko had her 10th consecutive finish in the top 10.

Kerr opened up a three-shot lead with her fourth straight birdie. Lee, playing in the final group behind her, drove the 16th green to within 4 feet for eagle to get within one shot. Her next tee shot wasn't nearly as good. She pushed it into the trees and chopped her way to a double bogey on the par-5 17th that effectively cost her any chance of winning.

Kerr finished with a three-putt bogey on the 18th and still broke by six shots the 72-hole record at the Kia Classic, which began in 2010. She finished at 20-under 268.

The 37-year-old American couldn't hold back tears after she won. The father of her caddie, Greg Johnston, died a week ago and Kerr said she wanted to win it for both of them. It also was her first victory since becoming a mother at the end of 2013. Her son, Mason, was in a stroller behind the 18th green.

"I've been working with a new coach, and I definitely found something this week," Kerr said. "He said I was going to have a hot round, and he was right. I just found something. I'm just real happy right now."

Kerr had gone 42 starts on the LPGA Tour without winning until Sunday at the Kia Classic.

Ilhee Lee became the third player this week to match the course record with a 64. Morgan Pressel had a 64 in the second round, and Se Ri Pak had one in third Saturday.


Northern Utah golfers: 'What winter?'

OGDEN, Utah -- Winter golfing in northern Utah is not for the faint of heart.

Steven Rawlings recalls one time golfing with his son in the dead of winter.

"My son and I went out on a Jan. 1 morning one year, and it was probably 2-below," the 68-year-old said. "It was so cold, after we hit the first ball we just looked at each other and said, 'Let's not do this.' "

But they at least finished the hole, right?

"Oh, no," Rawlings said. "We just left the ball. It was that cold."

The two men learned an important lesson that day.

"You know it's too cold to golf when you can't get the tee in the ground," Rawlings said.

An avid golfer, the retired Riverdale man says he tries to play three or four times a week during the warmer months. And the rest of the time?

"I try to play during the winter, if the courses are open," he said. "And you can usually find one open."

Rawlings says one advantage of golfing in the winter is that the water hazards are usually frozen solid. What's more, a tee shot will bounce and roll much farther across the cold, hard ground.

But there's a trade-off, because you can't get as much power behind the ball.

"You have to put on more clothes, so it hampers your swing a little bit," he said.

None of this, of course, has been a problem this year. Golf professionals and managers at local courses say they've never seen a winter quite like that of 2014-'15. Relatively snow-free valley floors -- combined with record-warm temperatures -- made for a winter golf experience unlike any other north of, say, St. George.

Indeed, this must be what it's like to be a golfer in Arizona.

"No question," said Todd Brenkman, a PGA professional and the golf division manager for Ogden City. "This has been the warmest and driest winter, as a whole, on record."

Brenkman said the two courses he oversees -- El Monte Golf Course and Mount Ogden Golf Course -- were open right up until Christmas Eve, closed down for a time after the big Christmas Day snowstorm, and then opened again on Jan. 19. Save for a few days here and there, one or both courses have pretty much been open ever since.

"In all the years I've been doing this, the is the longest golf season I've ever seen," Brenkman said. "I've worked in the golf business for 25 years, and this was really something -- to have that many decent, playable days during December, January and February."

It was the unseasonably warm weather that floored Brenkman.

"I've been open many times in January, but that was golfing in seasonal, cold temperatures," he said. "But this year, to have customers playing in shirt sleeves in February? I couldn't get over it."

Brenkman's fellow golf pros around northern Utah were equally pleasantly surprised by the winter's mild weather. Mike Garrison, head golf professional at Glen Eagle Golf Course, in Syracuse, says his course was open almost the entire winter.

"I might be able to count on both hands how many days we were closed this winter," Garrison said, "while in a typical year, we'll be closed anywhere from 25 to 40 days."

Because his golf course is on the west side of the valley, Garrison says he's open more than some of the other courses.

"We have a longer season than most," he said. "Typically, when some of the east-bench courses are covered in snow, we're open."

The same is true at Swan Lakes Golf Course, in Layton. Chad Romney, the general manager there, says courses closer to the mountains may not see this many playable days, but Swan Lakes is used to being relatively snow-free.

"Historically speaking, we've definitely been open more this winter, but it's not really an anomaly for us," Romney said. "The real advantage has been that it was so warm."

Romney said Swan Lakes is closed maybe 60 days in a typical winter. This year? About 21 days.

"There's lots of regulars who will tell you that they've played golf here every month of the year, for years," he said. "But they were playing in 25-degree weather. It's been unique this year because it's been so warm."

Ernie Schneiter, golf pro and owner of both Schneiter's Riverside Golf Course, in Riverdale, and Schneiter's Bluff Golf Course, in West Point, says he's never seen anything like this winter's temperatures -- and he turned pro way back in 1950.

"We probably had twice as much golf played this February as most Februarys," he said. "And it was because of the temperatures, not just because of the lack of snow on the ground."

But the best part, Schneiter says, is his courses are in great shape. The winter was so mild that he saw no winter kill in any of the grasses.

Eric Bumstead, head golf pro at Eagle Lake Golf Course, in Roy, said it's been good to have the extra revenue from golfers this winter, but that there are some negatives to increased use over the winter. He said his driving range, in particular, is looking "pretty beaten."

"And since we've had 20 times more people on the greens than we usually do in the winter, they don't look quite as good," Bumstead said.

However, Bumstead points out that the course is already quickly bouncing back as the weather warms this spring.

Schneiter says grass is much hardier than you'd think.

"Have you ever tried to get grass out of your flower beds," he asked. "Grass is a noxious weed."

Over at Swan Lakes, Romney says his course is in good shape, thanks to a mild winter that's allowed groundskeepers to keep up on winter maintenance.

"We've been able to work through the winter and do the stuff we're ordinarily frantically doing in March and April once the snow comes off," he said.

While golf courses saw more action over the winter, Bumstead predicts that fact may actually work to lessen the typical spring rush of golfers.

"Usually, there's a big blitz at the end of March and early April when we have the first warm days and golfers can finally get out on the course," he said. "But with the warm winter, it spread out the opening of golf season. Winter didn't cause quite as much cabin fever."

Jeff Cliften, the golf pro at Ben Lomond Golf Course, in Harrisville, said bad weather isn't necessarily bad for business.

"Sometimes you need a little bad weather to give folks a sense of urgency," he said. "Because that gets them out to the course when the weather finally turns good."

Winters seem to be getting milder here in northern Utah, according to Brad Stone, golf pro at Davis Park Golf Course, in Kaysville.

"That seems to be a trend," he said. "Our winters just haven't been as tough, and the last five years we seem to be open more in the off-season."

Stone says, even with the milder winters, there's still a much smaller window for that season's golfing here.

"You can't really get on the course until 9:30 or 10 in the morning -- it's too cold before then," he said. "And then, because the days are shorter, we shut the tee off around 2:30 or 3 p.m."

So, who golfs in the typical winter? Only the hardcore, according to Stone. But this winter, apparently even some of the occasional, fair-weather golfers were enticed to play.

"Most guys who play here in the winter are avid golfers," he said. "If a guy is playing in early January, at 40 degrees, he pretty much likes golf."

The only real downside to the winter of 2014-'15, from a golfing perspective, was the lack of precipitation.

"As long as we have water in the summer, I'd love to have weather like this every winter," Bumstead said.

Adds Romney: "Truthfully? The only reason I'm not jumping up and down over this winter is because of the water situation."

Brenkman worries about drought, too.

"Do we get into water restrictions? Because golfers want that golf course to be green," Brenkman said. "If you have to let the fairways go dry, it can have an effect on your business."

Schneiter worries about water, but he says courses will simply need to adjust.

"What may happen this year is we're not able to water the fringes of our course," Schneiter said. "But as long as golfers hit the ball straight, they'll be OK."

And if the golf professionals had their way and could order the weather? Romney offers his ideal recipe for weather: "I want it to rain every day from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and then be 60 degrees during the daytime."

Sometimes, the golf courses actually get what they want -- sort of.

"Like this week," explained Cliften. "It was great on the weekend, then Monday and Tuesday the weather was bad. If I could do that all year long, I'd be happy."

Brenkman acknowledges that when a Utah winter is good for golf it's probably not so good for the ski industry, but he thinks both benefited this year.

"I actually met a lot of people at El Monte this winter who came to town to ski -- to escape the brutal winter back East -- and then also got the bonus of sneaking in some golf on the trip that they didn't expect," he said. "They were still coming and getting their skiing in up to Snowbasin or Powder Mountain, but they were deciding to maybe cut their day a little short on the slopes and play some golf, too. So that was a nice thing."

This article was written by Mark Saal from Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

By
Mark Saal

Series: Industry News

Published: Sunday, March 29, 2015 | 1:37 p.m.

OGDEN, Utah -- Winter golfing in northern Utah is not for the faint of heart.

Steven Rawlings recalls one time golfing with his son in the dead of winter.

"My son and I went out on a Jan. 1 morning one year, and it was probably 2-below," the 68-year-old said. "It was so cold, after we hit the first ball we just looked at each other and said, 'Let's not do this.' "

But they at least finished the hole, right?

"Oh, no," Rawlings said. "We just left the ball. It was that cold."

The two men learned an important lesson that day.

"You know it's too cold to golf when you can't get the tee in the ground," Rawlings said.

An avid golfer, the retired Riverdale man says he tries to play three or four times a week during the warmer months. And the rest of the time?

"I try to play during the winter, if the courses are open," he said. "And you can usually find one open."

Rawlings says one advantage of golfing in the winter is that the water hazards are usually frozen solid. What's more, a tee shot will bounce and roll much farther across the cold, hard ground.

But there's a trade-off, because you can't get as much power behind the ball.

"You have to put on more clothes, so it hampers your swing a little bit," he said.

None of this, of course, has been a problem this year. Golf professionals and managers at local courses say they've never seen a winter quite like that of 2014-'15. Relatively snow-free valley floors -- combined with record-warm temperatures -- made for a winter golf experience unlike any other north of, say, St. George.

Indeed, this must be what it's like to be a golfer in Arizona.

"No question," said Todd Brenkman, a PGA professional and the golf division manager for Ogden City. "This has been the warmest and driest winter, as a whole, on record."

Brenkman said the two courses he oversees -- El Monte Golf Course and Mount Ogden Golf Course -- were open right up until Christmas Eve, closed down for a time after the big Christmas Day snowstorm, and then opened again on Jan. 19. Save for a few days here and there, one or both courses have pretty much been open ever since.

"In all the years I've been doing this, the is the longest golf season I've ever seen," Brenkman said. "I've worked in the golf business for 25 years, and this was really something -- to have that many decent, playable days during December, January and February."

It was the unseasonably warm weather that floored Brenkman.

"I've been open many times in January, but that was golfing in seasonal, cold temperatures," he said. "But this year, to have customers playing in shirt sleeves in February? I couldn't get over it."

Brenkman's fellow golf pros around northern Utah were equally pleasantly surprised by the winter's mild weather. Mike Garrison, head golf professional at Glen Eagle Golf Course, in Syracuse, says his course was open almost the entire winter.

"I might be able to count on both hands how many days we were closed this winter," Garrison said, "while in a typical year, we'll be closed anywhere from 25 to 40 days."

Because his golf course is on the west side of the valley, Garrison says he's open more than some of the other courses.

"We have a longer season than most," he said. "Typically, when some of the east-bench courses are covered in snow, we're open."

The same is true at Swan Lakes Golf Course, in Layton. Chad Romney, the general manager there, says courses closer to the mountains may not see this many playable days, but Swan Lakes is used to being relatively snow-free.

"Historically speaking, we've definitely been open more this winter, but it's not really an anomaly for us," Romney said. "The real advantage has been that it was so warm."

Romney said Swan Lakes is closed maybe 60 days in a typical winter. This year? About 21 days.

"There's lots of regulars who will tell you that they've played golf here every month of the year, for years," he said. "But they were playing in 25-degree weather. It's been unique this year because it's been so warm."

Ernie Schneiter, golf pro and owner of both Schneiter's Riverside Golf Course, in Riverdale, and Schneiter's Bluff Golf Course, in West Point, says he's never seen anything like this winter's temperatures -- and he turned pro way back in 1950.

"We probably had twice as much golf played this February as most Februarys," he said. "And it was because of the temperatures, not just because of the lack of snow on the ground."

But the best part, Schneiter says, is his courses are in great shape. The winter was so mild that he saw no winter kill in any of the grasses.

Eric Bumstead, head golf pro at Eagle Lake Golf Course, in Roy, said it's been good to have the extra revenue from golfers this winter, but that there are some negatives to increased use over the winter. He said his driving range, in particular, is looking "pretty beaten."

"And since we've had 20 times more people on the greens than we usually do in the winter, they don't look quite as good," Bumstead said.

However, Bumstead points out that the course is already quickly bouncing back as the weather warms this spring.

Schneiter says grass is much hardier than you'd think.

"Have you ever tried to get grass out of your flower beds," he asked. "Grass is a noxious weed."

Over at Swan Lakes, Romney says his course is in good shape, thanks to a mild winter that's allowed groundskeepers to keep up on winter maintenance.

"We've been able to work through the winter and do the stuff we're ordinarily frantically doing in March and April once the snow comes off," he said.

While golf courses saw more action over the winter, Bumstead predicts that fact may actually work to lessen the typical spring rush of golfers.

"Usually, there's a big blitz at the end of March and early April when we have the first warm days and golfers can finally get out on the course," he said. "But with the warm winter, it spread out the opening of golf season. Winter didn't cause quite as much cabin fever."

Jeff Cliften, the golf pro at Ben Lomond Golf Course, in Harrisville, said bad weather isn't necessarily bad for business.

"Sometimes you need a little bad weather to give folks a sense of urgency," he said. "Because that gets them out to the course when the weather finally turns good."

Winters seem to be getting milder here in northern Utah, according to Brad Stone, golf pro at Davis Park Golf Course, in Kaysville.

"That seems to be a trend," he said. "Our winters just haven't been as tough, and the last five years we seem to be open more in the off-season."

Stone says, even with the milder winters, there's still a much smaller window for that season's golfing here.

"You can't really get on the course until 9:30 or 10 in the morning -- it's too cold before then," he said. "And then, because the days are shorter, we shut the tee off around 2:30 or 3 p.m."

So, who golfs in the typical winter? Only the hardcore, according to Stone. But this winter, apparently even some of the occasional, fair-weather golfers were enticed to play.

"Most guys who play here in the winter are avid golfers," he said. "If a guy is playing in early January, at 40 degrees, he pretty much likes golf."

The only real downside to the winter of 2014-'15, from a golfing perspective, was the lack of precipitation.

"As long as we have water in the summer, I'd love to have weather like this every winter," Bumstead said.

Adds Romney: "Truthfully? The only reason I'm not jumping up and down over this winter is because of the water situation."

Brenkman worries about drought, too.

"Do we get into water restrictions? Because golfers want that golf course to be green," Brenkman said. "If you have to let the fairways go dry, it can have an effect on your business."

Schneiter worries about water, but he says courses will simply need to adjust.

"What may happen this year is we're not able to water the fringes of our course," Schneiter said. "But as long as golfers hit the ball straight, they'll be OK."

And if the golf professionals had their way and could order the weather? Romney offers his ideal recipe for weather: "I want it to rain every day from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and then be 60 degrees during the daytime."

Sometimes, the golf courses actually get what they want -- sort of.

"Like this week," explained Cliften. "It was great on the weekend, then Monday and Tuesday the weather was bad. If I could do that all year long, I'd be happy."

Brenkman acknowledges that when a Utah winter is good for golf it's probably not so good for the ski industry, but he thinks both benefited this year.

"I actually met a lot of people at El Monte this winter who came to town to ski -- to escape the brutal winter back East -- and then also got the bonus of sneaking in some golf on the trip that they didn't expect," he said. "They were still coming and getting their skiing in up to Snowbasin or Powder Mountain, but they were deciding to maybe cut their day a little short on the slopes and play some golf, too. So that was a nice thing."

This article was written by Mark Saal from Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


LPGA: Lee leads, Ko falls four behind

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — Mirim Lee took the Kia Classic lead Saturday, while top-ranked Lydia Ko easily increased her LPGA Tour under-par streak to 27 rounds but dropped two late strokes and ended up four shots behind.

Lee shot a 6-under 66 to reach 16-under 200 at Aviara, leaving her a stroke ahead of former UCLA player Alison Lee in the final event before the first major of the season next week at Rancho Mirage.

The 17-year-old Ko shot a 67 to move within two rounds of matching Annika Sorenstam's LPGA Tour record for consecutive rounds under par of 29 set in 2004. Ko pushed her worldwide streak to 30.

Mirim Lee had five birdies and a 6-foot par save on the par-4 18th in a back-nine 31. The 24-year-old South Korean player won LPGA Tour events last year in Michigan and China.

The 20-year-old Alison Lee had her second straight 66. She's making her fourth LPGA Tour start as a professional. Last year, she won the Pac-12 title as a freshman at UCLA and was co-medalist at Q-school.

Ko eagled the par-4 seventh and birdied Nos. 8, 11, 13 and 14 to take the lead at 14 under, but hit into the water and made a bogey on the drivable par-4 16th and lost another stroke on 18.

The New Zealander has two worldwide victories this year, winning the tour's Women's Australian Open and the Ladies European Tour's New Zealand Women's Open in consecutive weeks. She has 10 straight top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. Ko has six career LPGA Tour victories, has never missed a cut in 48 career tour starts and has 10 worldwide wins in pro events.

Cristie Kerr and Japan's Sakura Yokomine were 13 under. Kerr bogeyed the final hole for a 68, and Yokomine eagled the 16th in a 67.

Se Ri Pak matched the course record with a 64 to join Ko, Paula Creamer and Jennifer Song at 12 under. Creamer closed eagle-birdie-birdie for a 66. Song also had a 66.

Lexi Thompson, preparing for her title defense in the ANA Inspiration, was 11 under after a 65.

Morgan Pressel, tied for the second-round lead with Mirim Lee after matching the course record with a 64, had a 72 to fall into a tie for 10th at 10 under.

Second-ranked Inbee Park also was in the group at 10 under after a 68. She took last week off after winning in Singapore and finishing second in a Ladies European Tour event in China.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Series: LPGA Tour

Published: Sunday, March 29, 2015 | 2:37 a.m.

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — Mirim Lee took the Kia Classic lead Saturday, while top-ranked Lydia Ko easily increased her LPGA Tour under-par streak to 27 rounds but dropped two late strokes and ended up four shots behind.

Lee shot a 6-under 66 to reach 16-under 200 at Aviara, leaving her a stroke ahead of former UCLA player Alison Lee in the final event before the first major of the season next week at Rancho Mirage.

The 17-year-old Ko shot a 67 to move within two rounds of matching Annika Sorenstam's LPGA Tour record for consecutive rounds under par of 29 set in 2004. Ko pushed her worldwide streak to 30.

Mirim Lee had five birdies and a 6-foot par save on the par-4 18th in a back-nine 31. The 24-year-old South Korean player won LPGA Tour events last year in Michigan and China.

The 20-year-old Alison Lee had her second straight 66. She's making her fourth LPGA Tour start as a professional. Last year, she won the Pac-12 title as a freshman at UCLA and was co-medalist at Q-school.

Ko eagled the par-4 seventh and birdied Nos. 8, 11, 13 and 14 to take the lead at 14 under, but hit into the water and made a bogey on the drivable par-4 16th and lost another stroke on 18.

The New Zealander has two worldwide victories this year, winning the tour's Women's Australian Open and the Ladies European Tour's New Zealand Women's Open in consecutive weeks. She has 10 straight top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. Ko has six career LPGA Tour victories, has never missed a cut in 48 career tour starts and has 10 worldwide wins in pro events.

Cristie Kerr and Japan's Sakura Yokomine were 13 under. Kerr bogeyed the final hole for a 68, and Yokomine eagled the 16th in a 67.

Se Ri Pak matched the course record with a 64 to join Ko, Paula Creamer and Jennifer Song at 12 under. Creamer closed eagle-birdie-birdie for a 66. Song also had a 66.

Lexi Thompson, preparing for her title defense in the ANA Inspiration, was 11 under after a 65.

Morgan Pressel, tied for the second-round lead with Mirim Lee after matching the course record with a 64, had a 72 to fall into a tie for 10th at 10 under.

Second-ranked Inbee Park also was in the group at 10 under after a 68. She took last week off after winning in Singapore and finishing second in a Ladies European Tour event in China.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Sutherland leads Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic by 2

SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) — Kevin Sutherland birdied three of the final six holes Saturday for a 5-under 67 and the second-round lead in the Champions Tour's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Those birdies pushed him to the top and he protected the lead with key par saves from bunkers on the last two holes, including one from a buried lie and awkward stance on the par-3 17th.

"I didn't have a stance and the ball's plugged," Sutherland said. "If someone would have given me a 4, I would have taken it. I thought if I could just pop it out I might could run it up to the hole. I was just hoping to get a putt at it and I did and I was fortunate enough to make it. Just ended up in a bad spot but was able to make the best of it."

Sutherland, the one-time PGA Tour winner who shot the first 59 in Champions Tour history last year in Endicott, New York, chipped in for birdie from behind the 12th green and birdied Nos. 15 and 16.

He had a two-stroke lead over 2011 MGRC champ Tom Lehman, but he doesn't have the "hangover" from a record round like he did the last time he took a lead into the final round.

"This is very different, a different mentality," Sutherland said. "When I shot the 59, it almost felt like I had won something already. There were all the congratulations, and the million texts and all that stuff and everybody wanted to talk about it, which is totally understandable. It was hard to come out the next day and be focused.

"As much as I wanted to be, I wasn't as focused as I needed to be. I don't think that will be a problem tomorrow. Whether I play well or not is a different subject, but I know I'll be ready to play. At Dick Sporting Goods (Open), I was still living off a hangover from the day before."

Lehman climbed the leaderboard with a bogey-free 66, highlighted by a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth hole.

"You just have to get it over the ridge and then it's all about gravity," Lehman said. "It's a matter of getting up to the right on the high side in the right spot where it can just trundle on down the hill. It looked perfect from the beginning. It was one of those long putts that at worst case is going to be really close. Within 5 or 6 feet, I thought it was in.

"Those are the kinds of things that happen when momentum is on your side, and to do well in golf you have to have things like that happen. You can't be perfect all the time. You have to get away with some imperfection and that was certainly one case of that."

Tom Pernice Jr. and David Frost were 6 under. Pernice had a 69, and Frost shot 70.

Scott Dunlap had a 65, the best round of the week, to join Colin Montgomerie, Joe Durant, Olin Browne and Woody Austin at 5 under. Montgomerie and Durant shot 72 after sharing the first-round lead. Browne had a 68, and Austin shot 71.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was 2 over after a 70. The Spaniard won the season-opening event in Hawaii in January for his second victory in three career Champions Tour starts.

"It's a tough course so anybody within five or six shots still has a chance to win with a really hot round," Lehman said. "Everybody knows the golf course. It's a matter of who goes out and enjoys it the most, is the strongest mentally and gets a break or two when then need it and makes some putts."

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Series: Champions Tour

Published: Saturday, March 28, 2015 | 11:37 p.m.

SAUCIER, Miss. (AP) — Kevin Sutherland birdied three of the final six holes Saturday for a 5-under 67 and the second-round lead in the Champions Tour's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.

Those birdies pushed him to the top and he protected the lead with key par saves from bunkers on the last two holes, including one from a buried lie and awkward stance on the par-3 17th.

"I didn't have a stance and the ball's plugged," Sutherland said. "If someone would have given me a 4, I would have taken it. I thought if I could just pop it out I might could run it up to the hole. I was just hoping to get a putt at it and I did and I was fortunate enough to make it. Just ended up in a bad spot but was able to make the best of it."

Sutherland, the one-time PGA Tour winner who shot the first 59 in Champions Tour history last year in Endicott, New York, chipped in for birdie from behind the 12th green and birdied Nos. 15 and 16.

He had a two-stroke lead over 2011 MGRC champ Tom Lehman, but he doesn't have the "hangover" from a record round like he did the last time he took a lead into the final round.

"This is very different, a different mentality," Sutherland said. "When I shot the 59, it almost felt like I had won something already. There were all the congratulations, and the million texts and all that stuff and everybody wanted to talk about it, which is totally understandable. It was hard to come out the next day and be focused.

"As much as I wanted to be, I wasn't as focused as I needed to be. I don't think that will be a problem tomorrow. Whether I play well or not is a different subject, but I know I'll be ready to play. At Dick Sporting Goods (Open), I was still living off a hangover from the day before."

Lehman climbed the leaderboard with a bogey-free 66, highlighted by a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth hole.

"You just have to get it over the ridge and then it's all about gravity," Lehman said. "It's a matter of getting up to the right on the high side in the right spot where it can just trundle on down the hill. It looked perfect from the beginning. It was one of those long putts that at worst case is going to be really close. Within 5 or 6 feet, I thought it was in.

"Those are the kinds of things that happen when momentum is on your side, and to do well in golf you have to have things like that happen. You can't be perfect all the time. You have to get away with some imperfection and that was certainly one case of that."

Tom Pernice Jr. and David Frost were 6 under. Pernice had a 69, and Frost shot 70.

Scott Dunlap had a 65, the best round of the week, to join Colin Montgomerie, Joe Durant, Olin Browne and Woody Austin at 5 under. Montgomerie and Durant shot 72 after sharing the first-round lead. Browne had a 68, and Austin shot 71.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was 2 over after a 70. The Spaniard won the season-opening event in Hawaii in January for his second victory in three career Champions Tour starts.

"It's a tough course so anybody within five or six shots still has a chance to win with a really hot round," Lehman said. "Everybody knows the golf course. It's a matter of who goes out and enjoys it the most, is the strongest mentally and gets a break or two when then need it and makes some putts."

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


European Tour: Coetzee trails leading trio by 1 in Morocco

AGADIR, Morocco (AP) — Romain Wattel of France shares the lead with Scottish pair Richie Ramsay and Andrew McArthur on 7-under par heading into the final round of the Trophee Hassan II.

McArthur and Wattel shot 5-under 67s on Saturday while overnight co-leader Ramsey had to be content with a 71 after hitting five birdies and four bogeys.

South African George Coetzee, who needs to win in order to secure a place at the Masters in two weeks, remains in the mix after a superb back nine at the Golf du Palais Royal. Coetzee is among seven players lying just one shot off the leaders, along with former champion David Horsey.

The tournament remains wide open with only four shots separating the top 29 players.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Series: European Tour

Published: Saturday, March 28, 2015 | 7:16 p.m.

AGADIR, Morocco (AP) — Romain Wattel of France shares the lead with Scottish pair Richie Ramsay and Andrew McArthur on 7-under par heading into the final round of the Trophee Hassan II.

McArthur and Wattel shot 5-under 67s on Saturday while overnight co-leader Ramsey had to be content with a 71 after hitting five birdies and four bogeys.

South African George Coetzee, who needs to win in order to secure a place at the Masters in two weeks, remains in the mix after a superb back nine at the Golf du Palais Royal. Coetzee is among seven players lying just one shot off the leaders, along with former champion David Horsey.

The tournament remains wide open with only four shots separating the top 29 players.

This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Texans Walker, Spieth are 1-2 at Valero Texas Open

Jimmy Walker
USA Today Images
Jimmy Walker battled tough conditions to shoot 66 Saturday and build his lead to four strokes.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Jimmy Walker opened a four-stroke lead over fellow Texan Jordan Spieth, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday in his hometown Texas Open.

Walker, who lives 35 minutes away from TPC San Antonio, is looking for his fifth title in two tour seasons. He had a 9-under 207 total after opening with rounds of 71 and 67.

"It's a tough golf course," said Walker, the winner of the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. "I thought coming into today that even par or maybe 1 under would be a good score. You definitely want to find a way to extend the lead, but you have to be smart about it."

SATURDAY'S TOP PHOTOS: Our favorites from the Valero Texas Open

Spieth shot a 71. The 21-year-old Dallas player, coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago at Innisbrook, had a double bogey, two bogeys and two birdies on the final six holes.

"It's not ideal -- I really look for more consistency," Spieth said.

FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel birdied the final three holes for a 69 to get to 3 under.

"I wanted to give myself some opportunities coming in," Horschel said. "It was a nice one to get at 16 -- it was blowing downwind and that green has been pretty firm all week. And they had the tees moved up at 17 and 18, just straight downwind today."

Five players were seven back of Walker at 2 under. Zach Johnson birdied the last two holes for a 72, Chesson Hadley had a 71, tour rookie Scott Pinckney shot 69, 2011 champion Brendan Steele had a 72, and Jason Kokrak finished with a 71.

Phil Mickelson was even par after a 74. He had a near double-eagle on the 14th hole.

Tied making the turn, Walker broke away from Spieth with a two-shot swing on the par-5 14th and extended when Spieth hit his tee shot at the par-3 16th into more trouble well right of the grandstand.

Both players have long-established roots in Texas. Spieth played on the Texas Longhorns' national champion team in 2011, and Walker was an All-American at Baylor.

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"Jordan and I played the first two days out here and we had a lot of people," Walker said. "We'll probably have even more people tomorrow. It should be fun."

Playing in the group ahead at No. 14, Spieth left a long bunker shot in the sand and failed to make a 13-footer once he got on the green.

Walker planted a wedge shot a foot away from the cup and made birdie.

Spieth got a shot back with an 8-foot birdie putt at 15, then hit a tee shot on the 191-yard 16th that ended up about 40 yards right of the green. He took two chips and lipped out a 4-footer en route to a double bogey.

"I'm going to have to hit the ball better than I did today," Spieth said. "A couple of tough breaks on the back nine. All in all, I was playing a really solid round of golf, minus a couple of decisions and a couple of swings."

Spieth bounced back to birdie the short par-4 17th.

Walker also birdied 17 after hitting a short pitch to 7 feet away. He capped his round with a 9-foot birdie putt on 18.

Mickelson had all sorts of short-game troubles while shooting a front-nine 40.

ALMOST ALBATROSS: Phil Mickleson comes within inches at No. 14

That included two shots from the fringe leading to a double bogey at No. 4, taking four shots to find the hole and bogeying after driving into a greenside bunker at the short par-4 fifth, missing a 3-foot par putt at the seventh and missing a green in regulation while blasting from a greenside bunker at the par-5 eighth.

He also missed birdie putts of 8 feet at Nos. 2 and 6.

He nearly holed out for double-eagle from 258 yards on the par-5 14th. His eagle put him back in red figures, but he bogeyed 16.

 

 

By
Tim Price

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Saturday, March 28, 2015 | 6:29 p.m.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Jimmy Walker opened a four-stroke lead over fellow Texan Jordan Spieth, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday in his hometown Texas Open.

Walker, who lives 35 minutes away from TPC San Antonio, is looking for his fifth title in two tour seasons. He had a 9-under 207 total after opening with rounds of 71 and 67.

"It's a tough golf course," said Walker, the winner of the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. "I thought coming into today that even par or maybe 1 under would be a good score. You definitely want to find a way to extend the lead, but you have to be smart about it."

SATURDAY'S TOP PHOTOS: Our favorites from the Valero Texas Open

Spieth shot a 71. The 21-year-old Dallas player, coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago at Innisbrook, had a double bogey, two bogeys and two birdies on the final six holes.

"It's not ideal -- I really look for more consistency," Spieth said.

FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel birdied the final three holes for a 69 to get to 3 under.

"I wanted to give myself some opportunities coming in," Horschel said. "It was a nice one to get at 16 -- it was blowing downwind and that green has been pretty firm all week. And they had the tees moved up at 17 and 18, just straight downwind today."

Five players were seven back of Walker at 2 under. Zach Johnson birdied the last two holes for a 72, Chesson Hadley had a 71, tour rookie Scott Pinckney shot 69, 2011 champion Brendan Steele had a 72, and Jason Kokrak finished with a 71.

Phil Mickelson was even par after a 74. He had a near double-eagle on the 14th hole.

Tied making the turn, Walker broke away from Spieth with a two-shot swing on the par-5 14th and extended when Spieth hit his tee shot at the par-3 16th into more trouble well right of the grandstand.

Both players have long-established roots in Texas. Spieth played on the Texas Longhorns' national champion team in 2011, and Walker was an All-American at Baylor.

"Jordan and I played the first two days out here and we had a lot of people," Walker said. "We'll probably have even more people tomorrow. It should be fun."

Playing in the group ahead at No. 14, Spieth left a long bunker shot in the sand and failed to make a 13-footer once he got on the green.

Walker planted a wedge shot a foot away from the cup and made birdie.

Spieth got a shot back with an 8-foot birdie putt at 15, then hit a tee shot on the 191-yard 16th that ended up about 40 yards right of the green. He took two chips and lipped out a 4-footer en route to a double bogey.

"I'm going to have to hit the ball better than I did today," Spieth said. "A couple of tough breaks on the back nine. All in all, I was playing a really solid round of golf, minus a couple of decisions and a couple of swings."

Spieth bounced back to birdie the short par-4 17th.

Walker also birdied 17 after hitting a short pitch to 7 feet away. He capped his round with a 9-foot birdie putt on 18.

Mickelson had all sorts of short-game troubles while shooting a front-nine 40.

ALMOST ALBATROSS: Phil Mickleson comes within inches at No. 14

That included two shots from the fringe leading to a double bogey at No. 4, taking four shots to find the hole and bogeying after driving into a greenside bunker at the short par-4 fifth, missing a 3-foot par putt at the seventh and missing a green in regulation while blasting from a greenside bunker at the par-5 eighth.

He also missed birdie putts of 8 feet at Nos. 2 and 6.

He nearly holed out for double-eagle from 258 yards on the par-5 14th. His eagle put him back in red figures, but he bogeyed 16.

 

 


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