June 22, 2014 - 10:59am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Wayne DeFrancesco
PGA of America
Citing a bad back, 2001 champion Wayne DeFrancesco withdrew from 47th PGA Professional National Championship on Sunday.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Wayne DeFrancesco withdrew prior to the start of his first round in the PGA Professional National Championship citing a bad back.

DeFrancesco, the 2001 National Champion, was replaced in the field by Justin Stelzer from La Quinta, Calif.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Preview | Get to know the Dunes | Photos

In all, DeFrancesco -- PGA Teaching Professional at Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Md.-- has participated in 17 National Championships and has competed in the PGA Championship on five occasions.

In 2001, at the Crosswater Club in Sunriver, Oregon, DeFrancesco became the only player in the history of the National Championship to hold the lead alone all four days. His final-round even-par 72 was good for a three-stroke victory.
 
DeFrancesco, who opened the National Championship with a course-record 7-under-par 65, became the first PGA Professional National Champion from the Middle Atlantic PGA Section.
 
Stelzer, an assistant professional from Rancho La Quinta Country Club, is making his National Championship debut. 

 

DeFrancesco withdraws from PGA Professional National Championship
June 22, 2014 - 10:30am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Tom Gillis
USA Today Sports Images
Tom Gillis, a member of the Web.com Tour, received backlash from fans at the Air Capital Classic Saturday because of some remarks he made on social media Thursday about members of the host course, Crestview CC in Wichita, Kansas.

In case you missed it earlier this week, Web.com Tour player Tom Gillis -- who has spent time on the PGA Tour in the past -- sent out a tweet Thursday that got a lot of attention.

And it probably wasn't the kind of attention the Web.com Tour was looking for from one of its players.

Gillis, competing in this week's Air Capital Classic presented by Aetna in Wichita, Kansas, sent this out on Thursday:

He followed that tweet with this one:

Naturally, the membership at Crestview Country Club -- the host site -- weren't happy about what Gillis had to say.

Neither was Web.com Tour official Tom Hearn.

As reported by Golf News Net, Hearn said that while the PGA Tour does not discuss disciplinary measures for its players, the Tour would be following up.

"I would like to say that hopefully the Crestview membership knows from the bottom of our hearts that is absolutely not the representation of the rest of the players and staff," Hearn said in the Golf News Net report. "When we come here, we are treated tremendously, and it’s a very unfortunate comment."

As you might expect, fans attending the Air Capital Classic let Gillis know how they felt about what he had to say on social media. It turned into a scene right out of "Happy Gilmore."

Fellow Tour player D.J. Brigman captured this video of what greeted Gillis as he played the 17th hole on Saturday:

Ouch.

To his credit, Gillis could appreciate where the fans were coming from and sent out this tweet Saturday night:

Lesson learned.

 

Web.com Tour player booed by fans
June 22, 2014 - 6:38am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Dunes Golf & Beach Club
PGA of America
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will pose a stern test for the 312 PGA Professionals this week hoping to earn a berth into the 2014 PGA Championship.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Under partly cloudy skies, the 47th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA teed off this morning at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club and Grande Dunes Resort Club.

The first two rounds of the tournament, featuring 312 players, will be played at both courses for the first two rounds before moving to the Dunes Golf & Beach Club exclusively after the 36-hole cut is made.

RELATED: Complete PNC coverage | Preview | Get to know the Dunes | Photos

The PGA Professional National Championship is one of the most special events in all of golf, as the top 20 finishers will earn a berth in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., in August.

It's not easy to get in any major and this week is no exception.

Twenty players, on the number, earn that coveted spot in the PGA Championship field this week. If there are ties for that 20th spot, a playoff is contested at the conclusion of the PGA Professional National Championship, creating the ultimate "tournament-within-a-tournament" situation.

It doesn't get anymore dramatic for that final spot than it did a year ago when the tournament was played at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore. After 72 holes, there was a six-man playoff to decide the final three berths to the PGA Championship.

Two players -- Danny Balin and Bob Gaus -- moved on quickly, both with birdies on the first playoff hole, leaving Rob Labritz, Jason Schmuhl, Chris Black and Corey Prugh to play for the final spot.

Labritz looked to be out of the mix after drawing an awful lie with his tee shot in a fairway bunker on the 457-yard, par-4 11th hole -- the second hole of the playoff. Forced to punch out while the others played onto the green, Labritz proceeded to miraculously hole out for birdie from 95 yards with a 53-degree gap wedge.

Here's the shot:

 

 

After none of the others matched the birdie, the 42-year-old Labritz was in his fourth PGA Championship.

"I don't have many words," Labritz said. "It's been an emotional week, but a great ending to it. What a way to go back to the PGA at Oak Hill."

It will be fun to see what kind of drama is in store this time around at Myrtle Beach. 

PGA Professional National Championship under way in Myrtle Beach
Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods won't return to the Greenbrier Classic this year after playing his Quicken Loans National this coming week, according to officials at the Greenbrier.

Tiger Woods shocked us all on Friday by announcing that he'll return to action this coming week at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional. On Saturday, we got another clue as to his schedule going forward.

Jim Justice, the tournament director for the Greenbrier Classic, set for July 3-6 – the week after the Quicken Loans National and two weeks before the British Open – told The Register-Herald newspaper in Beckley, W.Va., that Woods won't play any more events between the Quicken Loans and the British Open.

"He is going to play in his event, and then he'll be off until the British Open," said Justice, who added that he received a courtesy call from Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, to break the news.

BRAND-NEW BAG: MusclePharm signs on as new sponsor of Tiger Woods' bag 

"Tiger loved the Greenbrier and had a great time [there in 2012], but the doctors are telling him he has to rest after playing an event if he's going to try to make the British Open," Justice said. "And he has to play in his tournament (the Quicken Loans National, which he hosts)."

After the Greenbrier Classic is the John Deere Classic on July 10-13, and the British Open is set for July 17-20 at Royal Liverpool – where, of course Woods won the last time the event was played there in 2006.

Woods last played on March 9 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, where he closed with a 78 – his highest final-round score ever on the PGA Tour – as he dealt with back pain. He had microdiscectomy surgery on March 31, and hasn't played since. 

There had been speculation in recent weeks that Woods might not play any majors this season, but Steinberg said a few days ago that Woods was making progress on his swing. 

 

Tiger Woods won't play again until British Open after next week, according to report
Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods will be back in action next week after almost four months away.

Feeling rusty but ready to play again, Tiger Woods said Friday he would return to competition next week at Congressional in the Quicken Loans National. 

Woods last played on March 9 at Doral, where he dealt with pain in his lower back and closed with a 78 for his highest final-round score on the PGA Tour. He had back surgery March 31, forcing him to miss the Masters for the first time. He also missed the U.S. Open last week at Pinehurst No. 2. 

The announcement on his Facebook page delivered a jolt of good news to golf. Woods has been the game's biggest draw since he turned pro in 1996, and with limited information about his recovery, speculation was starting to build that he might not make it to any majors this year. 

"After a lot of therapy, I have recovered well and will be supporting my foundation next week at the Quicken Loans National," Woods said on Facebook. "I've just started to hit full shots, but it's time to take the next step. I will be a bit rusty, but I want to play myself back into competitive shape. Excited for the challenge ahead." 

This is the first year for a new title sponsor at the PGA Tour event that donates its charity money to the Tiger Woods Foundation, and the tournament earlier this year secured an agreement to return to Congressional every other year through 2020. 

Woods on Thursday announced that he signed a new endorsement deal with MusclePharm, which will display its logo on his golf bag. 

"He has been the face of golf for the last 15, 20 years, and golf is a better sport and a better place with Tiger Woods in it," two-time major champion Rory McIlroy said last week at the U.S. Open. "So hopefully, he has a speedy recovery and he gets back on the course soon, because any tournament where Tiger Woods is a factor, he creates a big buzz." 

BRAND-NEW BAG: MusclePharm signs on as new sponsor of Tiger Woods' bag

This is the second-longest break Woods has taken from golf because of injury. He missed the second half of the 2008 season when he had reconstructive surgery on his left knee just a week after winning the U.S. Open for his 14th major. 

Even though he spent the offseason working on his body, there were signs early that something might be wrong. 

He missed the 54-hole cut at Torrey Pines, where he was the defending champion and an eight-time winner at one of his favorite courses. He had his worst finish ever at Dubai when he tied for 41st. Then, he withdrew in the final round of the Honda Classic because of back spasms, and despite being in the penultimate group at Doral, he struggled badly with his back on the final day after taking a swing from an awkward stance outside a bunker. 

Woods had microdiscectomy surgery a week before the Masters, and he has said in rare appearances that he did not know how long it would take to properly heal. His agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management, said earlier this week that Woods was making enough progress to extend his swing. 

Even so, playing the Quicken Loans National was thought to be too soon. 

It couldn't come soon enough for the tournament. 

"We're thrilled, obviously," said Mike Antolini, the tournament director and vice president of championships for the Tiger Woods Foundation. "Anytime you get that call and Tiger is in your field, it's really the best news you can get. The fact he's a two-time champion and the tournament hosts, we're very excited for the fans." 

'NATIONAL' NEWS: Quicken Loans signs on as title sponsor of Woods' 'National' event

He said he expected a spike in ticket sales with Friday's announcement. 

The strength of Quicken Loans National field has suffered in recent years as more Europeans moved into the top 20 in the world, and they headed across the Atlantic Ocean as the European Tour headed places like Ireland, France and Scotland leading up to the British Open. 

Adam Scott, who has replaced Woods at No. 1 in the world while he has been out, was not planning to return this year. 

"To be honest, we were prepared regardless for a good event," Antolini said. "Our ticket sales, we think they're going to be increased on this news now." 

Three years ago, Woods withdrew after nine holes at The Players Championship because of an Achilles tendon injury and missed more than two months. He said then he had learned from past mistakes and would not try to return before he was in full health. 

Assuming he is at full strength now, he likely will be at the British Open at Royal Liverpool and the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where he won majors the last time they were held on those courses. Woods been stuck on 14 majors since that `08 U.S. Open victory. 

Woods is at No. 207 in the FedExCup – having played only three events – and could have as many as five events to reach the top 125. He also is at No. 67 in the Ryder Cup standings. U.S. Captain Tom Watson has said he would use a wild-card pick on Woods, though he had eased off that position in recent weeks when the status of Woods' recovery was unknown. 

 

Tiger Woods to play Quicken Loans National next week
Guan Tianlang
Getty Images
Guan Tianlang made worldwide headlines at the 2013 Masters, but his next start will be back in among his fellow teenagers.

The presence of 11-year-old Lucy Li on our radar screens this week made me wonder whatever happened to Guan Tianlang, who played in the 2013 Masters – and made the cut – as a 14-year-old.

As it turns out, he's taking a step backward – and, to me, that's a good thing.

Over at Golf Digest, John Strege reports that Guan, who is now 15, has entered the Callaway Junior World Championship next month at Torrey Pines. Guan has great experience in that prominent international event, having won the 11-12-year-old division in 2011, and tied for 22nd the next year as a 13-year-old in the 15-17-year-old division.

Guan qualified for the 2013 Masters by winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, and made history at Augusta National by becoming the youngest player ever to make the cut in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event. And, of course, he received the first slow-play penalty in Masters history.

He also made the cut in the Zurich Classic in the spring of 2013, but missed the cut in the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship, Memorial and FedEx St. Jude Classic. More recently, he missed the cut in the UBS Hong Kong Open last fall, missed the cut in the PGA Tour's Sony Open in January and missed the cut in the Volvo China Open this spring. 

He also spent some quality time at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., according to Coleman McDowell at Golf.com, and has been working with instructor Sean Foley, who of course is also Tiger Woods' swing coach.

Guan was praised by everyone from Ben Crenshaw to Tiger Woods for both his game and his maturity during his run in the United States last year, and no doubt he's special. But taking a deep breath, reappraising his place in the game and deciding to return to the junior ranks (at least for a bit) could be his most mature decision yet.

 

Guan Tianlang returns to junior golf, at least for a while