Golf

Monday, April 12, 2021
Ted's current take is $202,917 . . .

    Ted Potter is back in action this week at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, one of the favorite destinations of many PGA Tour players. Ted will be looking to make a significant improvement on his 2020-2021 season, in which he has made just four cuts in 14 starts, with earnings of $202,917. 

    Webb Simpson is the defending champ in the $7.1 million event played at the Harbour Town Golf Links with the world-renowned lighthouse. Webb collected a check for $1,278,000 last year, when he won by one stroke at 22 under par.

    There are three Gators in the field - Billy Horschel, Brian Gay and Camilo Villegas, and one Seminole, Daniel Berger. Horschel wound up the Masters yesterday with a 4-over-par 76, and tied for 50th at 8 over. 

    Youngster Will Zalatoris, who made a host of new fans with his second-place finish behind Hideki Matsuyama at Augusta National, heads a small group of name players in the field. Zalatoris posted a 70 on Sunday and walked off the 18th hole at 9 under par, just one stroke behind the first Japanese player ever to win a U. S. Major. Also entered are Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Patrick Cantlay, hole-in-one star Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey.

    Matsuyama, an instant national hero in Japan, took home $2,070,000, which is a lot of yen. There were only four sub-70 rounds in the finale, highlighted by a 6-under-66 by Jon Rahm, who rocketed up the leader board to finish in a tie for fifth with Marc Leishman at 6 under. They were one stroke behind Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele, who tied for third at 7 under. 

    

    

Sunday, April 11, 2021
Hideki shoots 30 on back nine . . .

    Justin Rose was stuck in neutral for the second straight day at Augusta National, remaining at 7 under par, dropping him into a second-place tie in the Masters at the same time that Hideki Matsuyama was shifting into overdrive and roaring into a convincing lead. 

    Rose has been at 7 under after each of the three rounds, while Matsuyama's late heroics led to a 7-under-par 65, and, at 11 under, he holds a four-stroke lead over a diverse quartet heading into the finale.

    Matsuyama's round began quietly enough as he made par on the first seven holes. He birdied No. 8, added a par on 9 and turned in 1-under-35 for the day and a contending 5 under for 63 holes. But the Japanese star went bananas on the back, making four birdies and an eagle 3 on the par-5 15th and wound up with nines of 35-30. He was 4 under for holes 15, 16 and 17. 

    Rose, meanwhile, stalled in place, is deadlocked with Xander Schauffele, who shot 68, Marc Leishman, who added a 2-under 70, and youngster Will Zalatoris, who has posted rounds of 70-68-71. 

    Corey Conners, at 6 under, and Jordan Spieth, 5 under, are still alive, but it will take a major effort by either to overtake Matsuyama unless he tanks on the final 18. 

    Phil Mickelson, who barely made the cut at +3, moved up to a tie for 21st after a 3-under 69. The only other senior to make the cut, Jose Maria Olazabal, shot 75 and is 5 over. 

    Gator Billy Horschel's 76-71-73 has him tied for 53rd at 4-over 220.     

Saturday, April 10, 2021
Justin posts even-par 72, still leads by 1 . . .

    Justin Rose's possible Masters runaway after his stunning 7-under-par performance in Thursday's first round hit a detour early in round 2 when the Englishman bogeyed four holes on the front nine at Augusta National and went to No. 10 at 3 over for the day and 4 over for 27 holes.

    It brought a host of rivals back into play and jeopardized Rose's position, but he held on determinedly on the back with birdies on 13, 14 and 16 for an even-par 72, and he remained at 7 under. However, as opposed to round 1 when only three players broke 70, there were 18 in that category yesterday and Rose heads into today's play just one stroke ahead of Will Zalatoris (70-68-138) and Brian Harman (69-69-138). Marc Leishman made a big move with a 67 to tie for fourth at 5-over 139, along with Jordan Spieth, who shot 71-68-139. 

    There's a group of six tied for sixth at 4 under, including Justin Thomas (73-67), Tony Finau (74-66) and Hideki Matsuyama (69-71). 

    Missing the cut of +3 were pre-tourney favorites Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia and Daniel Berger at +4, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson at +5, Rory McIlroy at +6, Patrick Cantlay at +8 and Jason Day at +9. There are 53 players remaining to chase Rose on 'moving day.' 

    Gator Brian Gay missed the cut at +8 to go to the sidelines with Seminoles Koepka and Berger, leaving Gator Billy Horschel (76-71-147) by himself to try to get Tour victory No. 5 this season for the two Florida schools.

    The lone old-timer to be inside the cut line after 18 holes, Bernhard Langer, fell by the wayside with a second-round 77. But two others made the cut, Jose Maria Olazabal with 75-71-146, 2 over, and Phil Mickelson with 75-72-147, 3 over.     

    

Friday, April 9, 2021
Justin shoots 65, goes 9 under on last 11 holes . . .

    Thursday's opening round of the Masters bore little resemblance to the 2020 edition, played for the first time in November, when Dustin Johnson ran away and hid at a record-breaking 20 under par. Augusta National had the last laugh for this 18 holes, except for Justin Rose, who shot 7-under-par 65 and took a four-stroke lead into today's play.

    A combination of evil pin placements, and the "fast and firm" condition of the greens, left the majority of the field of 87 shaking their heads. Aside from Rose's superb round, only Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama were able to break 70, both posting 3-under 69's, and only nine others were able to break par. There were four players at 2-under-70 and five at 1-under 71.

    A great deal of the head-shaking came as a result of excellent irons to the greens which landed 15 feet or less from the hole, then proceeded to slither off in different directions, often leaving putts of 30 to 40 feet. Many even ended up off the putting surface.  

    Johnson, the record-breaker, was one better than the early projected cut line of +3 with a 2-over-74, same score posted by Seminole Brooks Koepka. The other Seminole, Daniel Berger, is one higher at 75. The two Gators are both over the cut line, Billy Horschel at 76 and Brian Gay at 78. 

    Rose began by taking bogeys at the first and seventh holes and was 2 over heading for the par-5 eighth tee. There he went on an unreal tear, making eagle 3 on that hole, and adding seven birdies the rest of the way. He played the last 11 holes in 9 under. 

NOTES: Tommy Fleetwood made news when he aced the famed 16th hole, his second ace in the past few weeks . . . Only one of the nine-man senior group finished better than the cut line, Bernhard Langer shooting 2-over 74. 

    If Rose can keep up his pace, he'll annihilate the field. History says it won't happen. 

     

    

    

    

Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Dustin broke three Masters records in November . . .

    Less than five months removed from the 2020 Masters, this week's return to Augusta National features everybody who is anybody, including defending champ Dustin Johnson, rejuvenated Jordan Spieth, returning Brooks Koepka, and nine former winners of the storied event who are in the 50-and-above category. 

    Dustin won it in November by five strokes over Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im with a record-breaking performance. He posted rounds of 65-70-65-68 for 268, 20 under par, a record for the event. His 60 greens in regulation and just four bogeys over 72 holes were also records, and he collected a juicy $2,070,000 for his superior play. 

    His menu for the Champions dinner is befitting his accomplishment - filet mignon and sea bass, mashed potatoes and spring vegetables, two types of salads, appetizers of pigs in a blanket and lobster corn fritters, and a dessert of peach cobbler and apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The menu alone may be a good reason why the seniors return in force every year.   

    Spieth, who has been in a funk for the last three or four years since he took the Tour by storm with 11 victories, picked the perfect time to emerge from his Rip Van Winkle slumber. He won the Valero Texas Open in a breeze last week looking like the Jordan of old, and he was richer by $1,386,000 as he made the trip from San Antonio to Augusta. It makes the Masters even more delightful, if that's possible. 

    The elder group includes three who competed in November and made the cut: ageless Bernhard Langer at 3 under, tied for 29th; Phil Mickelson, 3 over, tied for 55th, and Mike Weir, 2 over and tied for 51st. Missing the cut and trying again are Fred Couples (+6); Sandy Lyle (+7); Larry Mize (+3, the cut was even par); Jose Maria Olazabal (+14), and Vijay Singh (withdrew in 2nd round). Ian Woosnam is also aboard, but didn't play last year. 

    Aside from Koepka, the other Seminole, sizzling Daniel Berger, is playing, as are Gators Billy Horschel and Brian Gay. The four Florida collegians have accounted for one victory each this season. 

    

Sunday, April 4, 2021
Jordan is tied with Matt Wallace at 12 under par . . .

    It's difficult to imagine that a PGA Tour player has earned about $7.5 million in the past 3 1/2 years and it's considered "disappointing." But the label certainly fits Jordan Spieth to a T. Spieth has three top 5s this year, four top 10s, and more than $1 million in the bank. What he doesn't have is a victory; in fact, he hasn't won since 2017, when he captured the Open Championship across the sea, the Traveler's in Connecticut and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California

    But Jordan can end that "losing streak" today in the Valero Texas Open in Austin, where he's tied for the lead with Matt Wallace at 12 under par heading into today's finale. Jordan has posted rounds of 67-70-67-204 over the Austin Country Club course, while Wallace has improved by one stroke each day with 69-68-67. Charley Hoffman is right in the mix at 10 under after his 7-under-65 on Saturday.

    The pot is $7.7 million, with more than $1,350,000 going to the winner, so Jordan can boost his career total past the $44 million mark if he can nail down his 12th Tour victory.

    Ted Potter had a virtual disaster on Friday, missing the cut by a mile after a second-round 81 left him at 13 over par. The cut came at +2. He'll have a chance to calm down this week as the Masters comes up on the schedule.

    After his opening-round 64, Gator Camilo Villegas shot 76 and 71 and is tied for 10th at 5 under. Brian Gay missed the cut at +8, as did Seminole Hank Lebioda at +6. 

       

    

Friday, April 2, 2021
Potter is 3 strokes over the cut line . . .

    Camilo Villegas birdied seven of his last 11 holes to take the first-round lead yesterday in the $7.7 million Valero Texas Open in Austin, two strokes ahead of Sung Kang and Cameron Tringale. The former Gator began his round with a bogey on the 10th hole, then birdied 11, 14, 17 and 18 to head to No. 1 at 3 under 33 over the par-72 Austin Country Club course. He then added birdies on four straight holes - 2 through 5, before finishing with another on No. 9 for a round of 33-31-64. There's a trio at 5 under, three strokes behind - Jordan Spieth, Seung-Yul Noh and Hideki Matsuyama.  

    Despite his former successes on the PGA Tour, Villegas, the Gator from Colombia, is now playing without benefit of an exemption, having lost his playing privileges amid injuries and the loss of his young daughter, which devastated the entire Tour roster several months ago. A victory here would give him an exemption for the remainder of this season, plus two more years.

    On a side note, a Villegas victory would be the fifth during the wrap-around season for collegians from the University of Florida and FSU, following Gators Billy Horschel and Brian Gay, and Seminoles Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger. Gay shot 4-over-76 yesterday, same as Seminole Hank Lebioda.

    Ted Potter put himself in a precarious position in relation to the early projected cut line, opening with a double bogey on the first hole and winding up with 39-37-76, 4 over par, and three off the cut line. He was 5 over after 17 holes, but closed with a birdie on the par-4 18th, canning a putt of 5 feet, 6 inches. 

       

    

 

Thursday, April 1, 2021
Field features players from around the continent . . .

    OCALA - There were 46 players who made the cut at the Ocala Open last week, and they made a very diverse group. Of those who earned a paycheck, 17 reside in Florida, and the other 29 shipped in from 13 states and two Canadian provinces. One who missed the cut, Craig Isabel, hails from London, England. 

    Seth Williams, who comesfrom Whitestown, Indiana, won the 16th edition of the event with a birdie on the third hole of a playoff with Patrick Williams of Estero, Florida. Both shot 17-under-par 196 over the par-71 Candler Hills Golf Club course, which was playing at 7,274 yards. Fair earned a check for $15,000, while Williams collected $8,000.

    Willie Mack III, of Flint, Michigan, finished third at 15 under par and earned $6,000. Mack, who has been a contender in the event for many years, received a great deal of media coverage recently after gaining an exemption into the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Mack shot 70-76-146, 4 over par - with the cut coming at par 142. However, he will always have the knowledge that he finished above such as Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Charles Howell III, Jimmy Walker and Padraig Harrington. 

    Fair began Round 3 at 13 under par, three strokes ahead of Williams after rounds of 66 and 63. He closed with a final round of 4-under 67. Williams closed the gap with a best-of-the-day 64 to gain the tie.    

    There were three previous winners of the event in the field and all three made the cut. Yohann Benson of Montreal, the 2012 winner, tied for 14th at 10 under and collected $1,350; Michael Visacki of Sarasota, the defending champ, tied for 21st at 7 under and earned $1,075, and Kevin Aylwin of New Smyrna Beach, the 2018 winner, tied for 32nd at 5 under and took home $960. 

    There were seven players from Marion County in the field and all missed the cut, which came at 3 under par. Osten Waite, son of Ocala pro and PGA Tour winner Grant Waite, was the best of that group and finished at even par. The others were: Jason Bennett of Ocala (+4); Trey Rath of Reddick (+5); Tyler Hock of Dunnellon (+7); Orlando Merced of Ocala (+8); Iky Esteves of Ocala (+10) and Jerrod Williams of Ocala (+15).    

    Two former champs, Dan McCarthy (2015, 2016) and Wade Binfield (2017) have moved up to the Korn Ferry Tour. 

 THE MONEY WINNERS:     

1 - Seth Fair  Whitestown, IN -17 (66-63-67-196) . . . $15,000

2 - Patrick Williams,  Estero, FL -17 (64-68-64-196) . . . $8,000

3 - Willie Mack III,  Flint, MI - -15 (64-67-67-198) . . . $6,000

4 - Trey Shirley, Bardstown, KY -14 (64-68-67-199) . . .  $4,000

5 - TT Crouch, Fredericktown, OH -13 (67-66-67-200) . . .  $3,500

6 - Gregory Eason, Kissimmee, FL -12 (66-69-66-201) . . .  $2,500

     Sean Jacklin, Bradenton, FL -12 (67-67-67-201) . . .  $2,500

     Charles Wang, Bradenton, FL -12 (63-69-69-201) . . .  $2,500

9 - Nyasha Mauchaza, Port Saint Lucie, FL -11 (70-66-66-202) . . .  $1,700

     Donnie Trosper,  Canton, MI -11 (66-70-66-202) . . .  $1,700

     Austin Morrison,  Saint Simons Island, GA -11 (68-68-66-202) . . .  $1,700

    Joe Zawaski,  Northfield, IL -11 (69-67-66-202) . . .  $1,700

    Justin Doeden,  Prior Lake, MN -11 (67-66-69-202) . . .  $1,700

14 - Cristian DiMarco, Heathrow, FL -10 (67-69-67-203) . . .  $1,350

       Yohann Benson, Montreal, Quebec -10 (70-66-67-203) . . .  $1,350

16 - Ryan Siegler, West Windsor, NJ -9 (67-71-66-204) . . .  $1,162

       Luke Schniederjans,  Alpharetta, GA -9 (69-66-69-204) . . .  $1,162

      Jim Renner, Orlando, FL -9 (69-66-69-204) . . .  $1,162

      JC McFadyen, Fayetteville, NC -9 (68-66-70-204) . . .  $1,162

20 - Charles Merzbacher, Chattanooga, TN -8 (69-69-67-205) . . .  $1,100

21 - Blake Maum, Chattanooga, TN -7 (69-70-67-206) . . .  $1,075

       Chandler Eaton,  Alpharetta, GA -7 (69-69-68-206) . . .  $1,075

       Kevin Kring, Springfield, MO -7 (70-68-68-206) . . .  $1,075

       Michael Visacki, Sarasota, FL -7 (66-71-69-206) . . .  $1,075

25 - Cooper Musselman, Louisville, KY -6 (72-67-68-207) . . .  $1,020

       Jeff Sorenson, Blaine, MN -6 (71-68-68-207) . . .  $1,020

       Stephen Stallings, Louisville, KY -6 (69-69-69-207) . . .  $1,020

       Jimmy Jones, Tampa, FL -6 (69-68-70-207) . . .  $1,020

       Derek Bard, Jacksonville Beach, FL -6 (73-64-70-207) . . .  $1,020

       Velten Meyer, Orlando, FL -6 (69-66-72-207) . . .  $1,020

       Brad Adamonis, Ponte Vedra, FL -6 (67-68-72-207) . . .  $1,020

32 - Kevin Aylwin, New Smyrna Beach, FL -5 (68-71-69-208) . . .  $960

       Tommy Schaff, Ridgeland, SC -5 (69-68-71-208) . . .  $960

       Travis Trace, Jacksonville, FL -5 (66-71-71-208) . . .  $960

       Chris Erwin, Gallatin, TN -5 (66-71-71-208) . . .  $960

       Brandon Hoelzer, Tampa, FL -5 (66-71-71-208) . . .  $960

37 - Brad Miller, Timonium, MD -4 (68-71-70-209) . . .  $913

       Facu Delapenna, Windermere, FL -4 (74-65-70-209) . . .  $913

       Keaton Veillette, Toronto, Ontario -4 (68-71-70-209) . . .  $913

       Ian Martin, Saline, MI -4 (68-70-71-209) . . .  $913

       Kevin Hall, Cincinnati, OH -4 (67-70-72-209) . . .  $913

42 - Beau Breault, Howell, MI -3 (69-70-71-210) . . .  $900

       Zack Carrabine, Bargersville, IN -3 (68-71-71-210) . . .  $900

       Nick Carlson, Hamilton, MI -3 (67-71-72-210) . . .  $900

       Marcus Manley, Orlando, FL -3 (70-67-73-210) . . .  $900

46 - Cory Howard, Jacksonville, FL - E (68-71-74-213) . . . $900



Monday, March 29, 2021
Billy takes home $1,820,000 from WGC-Dell Match Play Championship . . .

    The long-standing rivalry between the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles doesn't just end on the football field or basketball court. It's always present on the golf course, too, and yesterday Billy Horschel evened the 2020-2021 score at two apiece with his victory in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. 

    By defeating Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1, in the finale of the $10.5 million event at the Austin Country Club, Horschel became the Gators second winner of the season, following Brian Gay's victory on Nov. 1 in the $4 million Bermuda Championship. Horschel's success was worth $1,820,000, while Gay collected $720,000.  

    The Seminoles have also won twice in the wrap-around season, Brooks Koepka taking the $7.3 million Waste Management Phoenix Open and its $1,314,000 prize on Feb. 7, and Daniel Berger earning $1,404,000 the following week in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Berger also played in the WGC-Dell and tied for 18th, earning $113,700. 

    After his opening two victories, Horschel defeated Kevin Streelman in the round of 16, 3 & 1; then Tommy Fleetwood in the round of 8 in a match that went 19 holes. Billy hadn't led on any of the first 18 holes until he won the playoff hole. He then won his semi-final over Victor Perez, 3 & 2, before dispatching of Scheffler Sunday afternoon.

    Despite their quarter-final losses, Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Brian Harman fared very well in the money  department, each winning $337,000. Even the bottom four - Louis Oosthuizen, Sebastian Munoz, Lanto Griffin and Corey Connors - took home checks for $35,750. 

DAHMEN WINS BY ONE - Joel Dahmen closed with a 2-under-par 70 to win the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship by one stroke over Sam Ryder, who shot 67 in the finale, and Rafael Campos, who shot 71. Dahmen finished at 12 under par. 

    Ted Potter missed the cut of plus 1 on Friday after posting two rounds of 74, 4 over par. Ted played the front nine with two birdies and one bogey for a 1-under 35 and at the time was 1 over for the first 27 holes, just needing to stay there to make the cut. But he bogeyed the par-3 11th after hitting into a greenside bunker to go to plus 2, and remained there with five straight pars through No. 16. Needing one birdie on the last two holes to reach the cut line, Ted bogeyed 17, then three-putted 18 for another bogey. 

    The Tour moves to San Antonio for the $7.7 million Valero Texas Open, and Ted will make the trip to play in the event that was canceled last year. Two Gators are entered - Gay and Camilo Villegas - and one Seminole, lefty Hank Lebioda. 

Friday, March 26, 2021
Ted is 2 over par, 2 off cut line . . .

    Ted Potter was off to a less-than-auspicious start yesterday in the first round of the $3 million Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republi. He made just one birdie on the back nine while taking three bogeys and a double and posting a 4-over-par 40.

    After a bogey on No. 2, Ted headed for the third tee at 5 over, a precarious position considering the early cut line was projected at even-par 72. Ted didn't show any signs of quitting, however, and birdied the fourth hole to get back to 4 under, and added another on the par-5 seventh. He then hit the green on the par-3 ninth, canned the putt for a deuce, and walked off with a 2-over 74, retaining his hopes for making his fifth cut in his last six starts. 

    There are 71 players in the field of 132 at even par or better over the Corales Golf Club course. 

    Stephan Jaeger is the first-round leader after a 6-under-par 66, one stroke ahead of Joel Dahmen and Andrew Yun.  

    Seminole Hank Lebioda is on the cut line with a 72, tied for 55th place, but Gators Matt Every and Camilo Villegas both shot 75 and are tied for 102nd.  

Monday, March 22, 2021
Ted has made cut in 4 of last 5 events . . .

    Ted Potter didn't fare too well on the weekend at the Honda Classic, closing out by finding the water again on the 18th hole and winding up with rounds of 70-71-74-71-286, 6 over par. He finished alone in 64th place out of the 68 players who made the cut and earned a check for $15,190. That boosted his PGA Tour earnings to $202,917, all of it gleaned in the last five tournaments, in which he has made four cuts.  

    Ted will try to improve on that record this week in the Tour's satellite event - the $3 million Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The top 64 players will be in Austin, Texas for the WGC-Dell Match Play event, and Ted will use this opportunity in his never-ending battle to move up on the FedEx Cup points list; he crawled up two spots to 158th after his disappointing Honda effort. 

    The Dominican Republic event, to be played over the Corales Golf Club course, is loaded with a variety of types - youngsters trying to establish themselves on Tour, Potter-types fighting to ensure they will still be exempt for next season, Champions Tour regulars who had great Tour success in days gone by, and late-40's types getting ready to tackle the over-50 group in one or two or three years.

    Three Gators are entered - Camilo Villegas, who just missed regaining full Tour status with his tie for eighth at the Honda when he needed a third or better; Matt Every, who has been fairly silent since his back-to-back victories in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and Chris Couch, one of the late 40's group prepping for seniors eligibility. Hank Lebioda is the lone Seminole in the field.

    Seminole Daniel Berger, 14th on the points list, and Gator Billy Horschel, 32nd, are in the field in Austin, where everybody who is anybody will be gunning for No. 1 Dustin Johnson, while shooting for the major share of the $10.5 million purse. Missing in the field will be Honda winner Matt Jones, whose 12 under score was three better than runner-up Brandon Hagy, also absent this week.  

     

     

Sunday, March 21, 2021
Potter reeling after quadruple bogey on back nine . . .

    The PGA National Champion course proved to be the big story in the third round of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens yesterday, with the whipping winds holding down the par-breakers to a mere 19. And, of those, 12 were of the 1-under-par 69 variety.

    Matt Jones, who tied the course record with a 9-under 61 on Thursday, then shot nine strokes higher on Friday to lose the lead, was one of the 12 69ers Saturday and sort of slid in the back door to wind up in front again at 10 under. Aaron Wise, whose pair of 64s looked solid as Saturday's play began, imploded in the wind and his 75 dropped him into a tie for second with J. B. Holmes, who shot 3-under 67, both three behind Jones.

    C. T. Pan made the strongest statement of the day with the low round of 65 and is tied for third with Cameron Tringale (69) and Sam Ryder (72) at 6 under. 

    Ted Potter is barely above the bottom of the 68-man field after a 4-over-74 that began with great promise - birdies on 3, 4 and 5. But a double bogey on No. 6 ended the euphoria, which returned briefly on No. 8 when he canned a birdie from a distance of 66 feet, 8 inches. A bogey on 9 led to a front nine of 1-under 34. 

    An 11 foot, 3-inch birdie putt on 11 put Ted at 2 under for the round and 1 under for 47 holes, and in good position to make a run on the final seven holes. Bogeys on 12 and 14 stalled that run, and two balls in the water on the par-3 15th led to a disastrous quadruple bogey 7. He closed with pars on 16, 17 and 18. The good news is Ted can finish way down and still collect around $15,000.  But he can also rebound and wind up with well over $200,000 in the bank for the season. He has made 12 birdies over the 54 holes.  

    Camilo Villegas, fighting for his exemption in his final try, followed his 69-65 with 2-over 72 and is tied for 13th at 4 under. The ex-Gator needs no worse than a third-place finish to regain his Tour status. Brian Gay is at 1-over 211, and Seminole Chase Koepka is at 2 over.

    Phil Mickelson thrilled his huge following, showing off a slew of his famed trick shots from behind trees and on cart paths all over the course, and wound up at 2 under, tied for 27th.   

       

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021
Ted now has four cuts in his last 5 starts . . .

    Ted Potter flirted with the cut line all day in Friday's second round of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, overcame a ball in the water at No. 16, and finished with a round of 1-over-par 71, making it right on the line to get to the weekend. It gives him his fourth cut in his last five events.

    The cut line stood at 1 over for most of the day, briefly moved up to plus 2 late in the day, then quickly dropped back to plus 1 where it remained for the rest of the round. When Ted hit it in the water off the tee and took a bogey on No. 16, he was on the line, but appeared to be safe when he headed to 17 while the line moved to 2. But as quickly as it did, it came back to 1 and Ted needed pars on his final two holes in order to advance. He parred 17, two-putting from 17 feet, and had a birdie putt of 10 feet, 2 inches on 18 but stroked it 3 feet, 7 inches past the hole. He made the final putt to remain on the line, finishing with 70-71-141 and in a tie for 60th.

    First-round leader Matt Jones, who opened with a course record-tying 61 at PGA National, soared to 70 and fell into a deadlock for second with Brandon Hagy (69-62-131) at 9 under par. Aaron Wise took over the lead, adding a second straight 64 for 128, 12 under. Sam Ryder is in fourth with 69-63-129, 8 under. 

    Gator Camilo Villegas, playing in his final event on a medical exemption, needs to post a top three or better to regain his card. He tacked on a 5-under 65 to his opening 69 for 134, 6 under, and is tied for ninth with a good chance to achieve his goal. Brian Gay also made the cut with 71-67-138, 2 under. Seminole Chase Koepka birdied 15, 16 and 17 to make the cut at 2 under (69-69-138), but Hank Lebioda missed it. 

     

    

Friday, March 19, 2021
Ted was tied for ninth with two to play . . .

    Ted Potter was flirting with a top-10 finish all day in the first round of the $7 million Honda Classic until he was derailed by bogeys on his final two holes at the PGA National Champion course in Palm Beach Gardens.

    Ted was sitting at 2-under-par with just Nos. 8 and 9 to play, and was tied for ninth, when he missed the green on both par 4's, and couldn't get it up and down on either. He dropped to even-par 70, and wound up tied for 43rd. There are 81 players at 1-over 71 or better, the early projected cut line.  

    Matt Jones tied the course record with a 9-under 61 and holds a three-stroke lead over Aaron Wise and Russell Henley. There's a group of five at 4 under, which includes veteran Steve Stricker.

    Gator Camilo Villegas is tied for 27th after a 1-under 69, while Brian Gay is among the huge group at 71, tied for 63rd. For the Seminoles, Chase Koepka shot 69 and Hank Lebioda 5-over 75. 

    Ted tees off in round 2 at 1:26 with Brendan Steele and Jimmy Walker.  

Monday, March 15, 2021
Thomas wins in Ponte Vedra . . .

    Ted Potter is back in action this week at the $7 million Honda Classic, to be played at the PGA National Champion course in Palm Beach Gardens. 

    After missing the cut in his first seven events of the wrap-around season, Ted has made the cut in three of his last four, earning $187,727 over that span. In his most recent effort, Ted finished in a tie for seventh at 14 under par at the Puerto Rico Open. Despite the missed cuts, he's played the last six events in 23 under, picked up 91 FedEx Cup points along the way and moved from nowhere to 159th place on that important list.  

    The defending champ is Sungjae Im, whose 6 under par finish edged Mackenzie Hughes by a stroke. Im collected $1,260,000. He finished tied for 17th at 7 under par Sunday in the Players Championship, closing with 66 after a Saturday 77 knocked him out of contention. 

    Justin Thomas won the Players by one stroke at 14 under par after a Sunday 68, while runner-up Lee Westwood could only muster up par 72.  

    Once again, the Honda field has drawn a slew of the over 50 group, including K. J. Choi, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and 49er Padraig Harrington, who becomes eligible for the Champions Tour on Aug. 1. Westwood, soon to be 48, will also play. 

    In the collegians department, the Seminoles will be represented by Daniel Berger, Chase Koepka and Hank Lebioda, while Brian Gay and Camilo Villegas carry the hopes of the Gators. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021
At age of 47, he's one up on Matt Fitzpatrick . . .

    Lee Westwood, who turns 48 next month, continues to upstage the young guns at the halfway point of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, taking a one-stroke lead into today's third round.

    The ageless Brit added a 6-under 66 to his first round 69 and is at 9-under-par 135, one better than Matthew Fitzpatrick, who has put up a pair of 68's over the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course while chasing the major share of the $15 million purse. 

    Tied for third at 7 under are Chris Kirk, who avoided the cut with a solid 7-under 65 Friday after opening with even-par 72, and Sergio Garcia, who went the other way with 65-72. The cut came at even-par 144, and there are 20 players at that number. Garcia made an early triple bogey that briefly knocked him down from 8 under to 5 under, but he rebounded with a couple of birdies that kept him in the top three.

    There's six-way tie at 6 under that includes Bryson DeChambeau and Sungjae Im, but a bunch of  the current stars who have been playing well lately, didn't make it to the weekend. Included are  Tony Finau, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink, Webb Simpson, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. 

    Seminole Daniel Berger added a 68 to his Thursday 74 and is tied for 22nd at 2 under, and Gator Billy Horschel made it right on the line with 71-73-144.  But Gator Brian Gay bowed out with 80-74.

    The odds against it were close to impossible, but Scott Piercy and Cameron Percy both shot 73-70-143 and will be paired together today with a 10:50 starting time.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021
$15 million in prize money on the line at TPC Sawgrass . . .

    The coveted Players Championship returns to TPC Sawgrass tomorrow after the rich event was cancelled last year before the first round was completed. Hideki Matsuyama was sitting in the clubhouse with a 9-under-par 63, and he's back to see if he can do it again when it will count, against the customary loaded field.

   Two of the marquee groups include Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth at 12:49, and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Dustin Johnson at 1 p. m.

    Rory McIlroy will defend the title he won in 2019, earning him a check for $2,250,000. He won it by one over veteran Jim Furyk, who collected $1,350,000. This week's total purse money is a staggering $15 million.

    Webb Simpson is back after his 2018 4-stroke victory, worth $1,980,000. He won by one over Charl Schwarzel, Jimmy Walker and Xander Schauffele.

    Ted Potter played in 2019 by way of his victory in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am the year before, but he's not eligible this time around. He missed the cut of 1 under with a pair of 74's. 

    Florida's collegians are represented by Billy Horschel and Brian Gay for the Gators and Daniel Berger for the Seminoles. Brooks Koepka pulled out early due to injury. 

    Also in the fold are Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Viktor Hovland and Rickie Fowler.     

Monday, March 8, 2021
She earns a cool $225,000 . . .

    Austin Ernst used four consecutive birdies on her opening nine in the final round of the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik to open a six-stroke lead, then withstood the challenging conditions coming in to capture her third LPGA Tour title Sunday at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.

    With nine holes left to play, Ernst looked like Secretariat cruising down the stretch in the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths as she jumped from 13 under par to 17 under, while Jennifer Kupcho lost one stroke and was at 11 under. Ernst had birdied holes 4 through 7, while Kupcho bogeyed No. 4, to create the 6-hole spread.

    But the margin shrunk to three in a hurry when Ernst bogeyed 12 (No. 13 at Augusta) and 13 (the Road Hole at St. Andrew's) to drop back to 15 under. Kupcho, meanwhile, birdied 10 and 12 to get to 13 under and give hope to her supporters sitting behind the 18th green and braving the stiff, cold winds which wreaked havoc on the field all afternoon.  

    There were just four players able to solve the tricky conditions and break 70, led by a 68 by Yealimi Noh, who still only wound up tied for 44th at 2 over par. In Gee Chun, Lexi Thompson and Yu Liu all shot 69, but only Chun's made much of a difference - she tied for 4th at 7 under and earned $78,125. Lexi took home just $17,226 for her tie for 19th. 

    Kupcho's back-nine surge was short-lived when she bogeyed 14 and double bogeyed 15, and it was basically all over as Ernst made par on the final five holes. She settled for a check of $139,217. 

    “Going wire-to-wire is really cool," said Ernst. "I told [my fiancé] Jason last night it would be really cool to win wire-to-wire, so glad I didn't jinx myself. To be in the heat of it all week and to be able to perform the way I did, I think it’s a testament that I can do this week in and week out. If I have a little belief in myself, this is what I can do.

    The $225,000 winner’s share moves Ernst over the $4 million threshold ($4,127,272). She also becomes the third American to win (in as many events) on the LPGA Tour in 2021, joining Jessica Korda at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions and Nelly Korda at Gainbridge LPGA.

.    Jenny Coleman fired a 1-under par 71 to sit in solo third at 8-under par overall and In Gee Chun signed a 3-under 69 card with four birdies to shoot -7. Playing out of the final grouping, Albane Valenzuela rounded out the top-five players at 6-under and went 1-over par for the day.

    Coleman fired a 72-hole career-best total of 280 which bested her previous mark of 283, which she shot in the 2017 Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club. The solo third was also good for a career-best finish. She collected $100,992. 

    BRYSON BACK IN WINNER'S CIRCLE - Bryson DeChambeau was one of just three players to break par under difficult conditions at Bay Hill yesterday, and the PGA Tour's biggest hitter captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one stroke over veteran Lee Westwood. DeChambeau shot 1-under-71 in the finale for 11-under 277, while Westwood's 1-over 73 left him at 278. 

    The only two others to break par were Andrew Putnam, who tied for fourth and Matt Wallace, who tied for 18th - both shot 71. 

    Corey Conners and Jordan Spieth, who had visions of victory teeing off, both imploded. Conners shot 74 for 280 and finished third, while Spieth closed with 75 for 282 and tied for fourth.

    Bryson moved from 12th to first in the FedEx Cup point standings, while Westwood jumped from 160th to 58th. 

    The Tour moves to Ponte Vedra this week for the Players Championship, which was cancelled in 2020 after the first round, and 48 of the top 50 players in the world are entered. Hideki Matsuyama was sitting in the clubhouse with a 63 when play was called last year.  


 







 




Sunday, March 7, 2021
Kupcho eagles No. 18 to get close . . .
    Two players have separated themselves from the field in the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik at Golden Ocala, as Austin Ernst holds a one-shot advantage over Jennifer Kupcho at 13-under par. It all sets up for a showdown today.

    “I didn’t quite have it ball striking-wise today. Hit a few good shots but then kind of sprayed a few drives and had to work a little bit harder than I have had to work the past couple days,” said Ernst, a member of Team USA at the 2017 Solheim Cup. “The chip-in on No. 9, I actually kind of chunked a pitching wedge in the fairway, then got a little lucky. I flew that one farther than I wanted to but it was accurate so it one-hopped straight in. That was fun.

    Even though Ernst wasn’t at the peak of her game on Saturday, her maturity and course management shone through, especially compared to years past. The two-time LPGA champion carded a 3-under par 69 which featured four birdies including the chip-in

    “I couldn’t have done that a few years ago. I don’t think I would have been as patient as I was today,” Ernst said. “When the wind picked up on the back nine, we had a few longer shots than we’ve had and a few pins that were a little tougher to get to. I was just trying to make as many birdies as possible to separate even more. I didn’t quite hit it close enough on the back nine after [birdie on] No. 11 to be able to do that, but to come in and have some easy pars after a few of the shots I hit, I was pretty happy with that.”

    Ernst will need to bring her A-game today with Kupcho within one at -12. The Wake Forest University graduate showcased her grit with an eagle on No. 18 to close out a 2-under 70 and signal game on to her competitor.

    “I actually was standing on the tee and was like, ‘I feel an eagle coming on,’ so it was pretty cool to do it but when I got down there in the fairway, I definitely didn’t think it would be possible to get close,” said Kupcho, who is searching for her first career victory. “I was not aiming anywhere close to where my ball went but it happened to go right at the pin and carried the water by a couple yards. I was able to make the putt. I didn’t know for sure if I could carry the water on the line I took, but I knew it would be close. I focused on the line and my caddie picked out a great spot, so focused on making a good stroke.”

    Rounding out today’s final grouping is 2020/21 rookie Albane Valenzuela. She is 7 under and tied for third with Jenny Coleman and fellow rookie Patty Tavatanakit.

    LPGA Drive On Championship—Inverness winner Danielle Kang will complete the penultimate grouping with Coleman and Tavatanakit. She carded a bogey-free 69 and sit
s in a tie for sixth at 5-under par with Carlota Ciganda. 

    With a victory, Ernst would earn her third career LPGA Tour title and first since the 2020 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She would capture her first title after holding the 36-hole lead in a tournament; it would also be her second win when holding the 54-hole lead (the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship is a 54-hole event).

    The $225,000 winner’s check would slide Ernst over the $4 million threshold in career earnings with $4,127,272. Kupcho would surpass the $1 million threshold in career earnings at $1,153,180 in her third year on Tour.


Saturday, March 6, 2021
Both 10-under-par at Golden Ocala . . .

    In each of the first two rounds at the LPGA Drive On Championship presented by Volvik, Jennifer Kupcho and Austin Ernst have fired matching 67's to reach 10-under par and hold a two-stroke advantage heading into the weekend at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.

    While Kupcho managed a bogey-free performance in round one, Ernst was the one to return the favor today.

    “Fairways were a little more bouncy this afternoon so I had a few more wedges in,” said Ernst, who hit 15 greens. “With how firm the greens are, you really have to take advantage if you get quite a few wedge opportunities. I have driven it well, too.”

    Even with one bogey on the card, Kupcho was just grateful a migraine did not rear its ugly head and that she made it around 18 holes pain-free on Friday.

    “Felt a lot better today. Yesterday was pretty rough,” said Kupcho, who recorded six birdies. “I’ve been in contention out here before, so just go out, relax and have fun. I think especially with my new caddie [Patrick Smith] this year we do a good job of having fun and relaxing. I think it’ll be a fun weekend.”

    Carlota Ciganda fired the round of the day with a bogey-free, 7-under par 65 out of the morning wave. It is no coincidence that she is finding success with a familiar face back on the bag in Terry McNamara, the long-time caddie for LPGA Tour legend and World Golf Hall of Fame member Annika Sorenstam. 

    “We had a great four years together and with COVID last year, I think he wanted to take a little break,” said Ciganda, who is 8-under overall. “I always enjoy working with him. He’s very peaceful, experienced, very calm. That is what I need on the course.”

    Last week’s Gainbridge LPGA champion Nelly Korda is solo fourth at -7 following a steady 2-under 70 on day two, highlighted by three birdies. Rounding out the top-five is 2019 Symetra Tour graduate Jenny Coleman. The University of Colorado alumna carded a 3-under 69 to reach -5 overall.

    “The biggest part of this golf course is the greens,” Korda said. “There have been lower scores in the morning because they’re fresh and they do get bumpy in the afternoon. Greens are playing a big part in the scores, so just going to stay positive. Everyone is going to be playing through weather.”

    Five players are tied for sixth at -4 including rookies Patty Tavatanakit and Leona Maguire. A total of 71 players made the cut of +2 including the LPGA Drive On Championship—Inverness winner Danielle Kang (-2) and the LPGA Drive On Championship—Reynolds Lake Oconee champion Ally Ewing (E).

    Making the cut but with a lot of work to do today are Lydia Ko (69-72-141, 3 under); and Cristie Kerr, Brooke Henderson and Lexi Thompson, all at 1 under. Stacy Lewis, Laura Davies, Anna Nordqvist and Jessica Korda are at even par. The cut came at plus 2, and missing it were Gators Sandra Gal (plus 3), and Maria Torres (plus 5), along with Brittany Lincicome (plus 5).   

EXPERIENCED ERNST READY FOR NEW ROAD

    Few things focus the mind and heighten the senses like a treacherous road never traveled, even if you’ve driven down curling paths before.

    Ernst has won twice in her eight-year career on the LPGA Tour. She will almost certainly pass the $4 million mark in career earnings by the summer. And she has hit quality shots under pressure on a winning U.S. Solheim Cup team. As pressure situations go, she’s been there, plenty. But there is one road Ernst has never traveled. She has never led or shared the lead after the second round of an LPGA Tour event. She’s only led after the third round once, and that was because one of her victories, the 2020 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G, was a 54-hole event.

    “Actually, I didn’t know that,” Ernst said with a big smile after shooting her second consecutive 67. “But I think it's the same (approach) that I took from yesterday going into today. Obviously, I started today with a lead and I saw Carlota shot 7-under (65) so you knew there were birdies out there.”

    She made five birdies with no bogeys on Friday, relying on exceptional ball-striking. In her shot-by-shot recap of the round, the birdie putts she listed ranged in length from two to 20 feet. “Probably made two putts over 25 feet yesterday and today, couldn't quite get the putter working early,” she said. “But I had a lot of really good looks inside 15 feet. I hit good putts and my speed was good all day. So, I had a lot of easy pars. It's nice when you give yourself a lot of good looks and come away making a few of them.”

    Ernst knows the course well from her two Coates Championship forays in 2015 and 2016, at which she was serenaded by the fans on the first tee on Jan. 31, her birthday.    

    “Pretty much every hole I hit it close, I hit a wedge of some sort,” she said of her course management. “So, you really kind of need to be aggressive off the tee to be able to get those numbers. Then you kind of know there are some holes that it's just so hard to hold the green. Some of the par-3s, No. 11, for example, with the pin in the middle was almost impossible to get it to stay on the green.

    “When I knew I didn't have a good number or a full number or as much green to work with, I placed it in a good spot just over the green or on the right side of the green, a place where I still had a look at birdie and I didn't have to work very hard.”

EARLY WAKE-UP CALL JOLTS SLEEPY CIGANDA TO 7-UNDER 65

    She is the first to admit that she is not an early riser and when her alarm went off Friday morning at 5 a.m., Ciganda would normally want to press snooze. But today was different.

    “I’m Spanish, so Spanish people like to sleep in and start the day a little later than a 7:38 tee time,” said Ciganda, who hit 16 greens en route to a bogey-free, 7-under 65. “Just have to do what you have to do. I was pretty awake today. Had a nice dinner, slept good and was ready to go.”

    To add the relaxed state of play for Ciganda, she was paired with Dame Laura Davies. She not only looks up to the four-time major champion and 20-time winner as a professional, but admires Davies’ creativity.

    “I love playing with her. Her talent is unbelievable, like everything she does with her different shots. Lots of imagination,” Ciganda said. “I think she can hit shots no one out here can hit, so I have a lot of respect and I think she’s just so good for the Tour. She shot 3-under, no bogeys. It’s just pure talent.

PLAYERS PAY TRIBUTE TO EIGHT TRIBUTE HOLES

    Golden Ocala features its eight tribute holes, replicas of well-known holes from historic courses around the world. They include No. 4 (the “Postage Stamp” at Royal Troon, No. 8), No. 5 (Muirfield No. 9), No. 6 (Augusta National No. 16), No. 11 (Augusta National No. 12), No. 12 (Augusta National No. 13), No. 13 (Old Course at St. Andrews No. 17), No. 14 (Old Course at St. Andrews No. 1) and No. 15 (Baltusrol No 4). LPGA Tour players find them enjoyable because of how familiar they feel.

    “The Postage Stamp, it was actually really funny,” Nelly Korda said of the Royal Troon tribute par-3. “We played (Troon) last year. I did not hit that green once at (AIG Women’s Open) and was probably in every bunker possible. I've never actually really been out to Augusta and I've never played St. Andrews,” Korda said. “Someday I'll go to those golf courses and be like, ‘Oh, this is a replica of Ocala.’”

    Davies’ favorite is the 11th, a near perfect design replica of the par-3 12th at Augusta National, sans the bentgrass greens and Augusta Country Club in the background.

    “I think 11 for us, the 12th at Augusta, it's so lifelike,” Davies said. “I've only stood on it once playing. I've stood there many a time watching the guys, but it is so similar it's frightening. It's very frightening actually.”

    Co-leader Ernst said of the holes, “They did a really good job with a few of them. This is my third time coming here, but think 11 and 12 out here, which are 12 and 13 at Augusta, I've never played Augusta, but they at least look like it. I've asked a couple girls that played the Augusta National Women's Amateur and they said the only difference is 13 at Augusta, the green's a little bit more severe than 12 here.”

    Kupcho was one of those women who played at Augusta National. Posting back-to-back 67’s, Kupcho found herself feeling slightly different than the other players. “They are very similar and the look is definitely very similar,” Kupcho said. “But I think I'm more nervous playing them now than I was (playing the originals) back then.”

 CONNERS LEADS AT BAY HILL:

    The beat goes on. The leaders of the Arnold Palmer Invitational after 36 holes no doubt wouldn't be recognized by anybody but their families and friends, and that's the way it has been for months on the PGA Tour. 

    Corey Conners leads with rounds of 66-69-135, 9 under par over the Bay Hill course in Windermere, one stroke ahead of Martin Laird (69-67-136). One of the main differences this time is there are a slew of big guns who have their sights set squarely on the top.

    Tied for third at 7 under are Rory McIlroy, who faltered with a Friday 71 after an opening 66; Viktor Hovland, who has taken the Tour by storm, and Lanto Griffin, who has been contending every week during this wrap-around season. Bryson DeChambeau is next at 6 under and Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth and Sungjae Im are all in range at 5 under.

    Low round of the day went to the headline writers' nightmare, Jazz Janewattananond, who shot 7-under 65 after opening with 75. At 4-under 140, he made the cut of plus 2 with ease. Tyrell Hatton also showed up Friday with a 5-under 67, 10 strokes better than his  Thursday effort, and is at even par. 

    Missing the cut were Patrick Reed (+3), Henrik Stenson (+4), and the entire group of UF players, Billy Horschel (74-75), Camilo Villegas (81-70), Matt Every (76-76) and Brian Gay (78-74).  It's been a bad week for Gators.