Golf

Monday, April 24, 2017
Ted ties for 6th in Indiana, earns $19,675 . . .

    Ted Potter played 13 holes at the United Leasing & Finance Championship in 19 over par, taking one triple bogey, four doubles and eight bogeys. He played the other 59 holes in 18 under, with two eagles (one a hole-in-one), 14 birdies and 43 pars. It wouldn't have taken that much to win the $600,000 event, since his 1-over-par 289 trailed winner D. H. Lee by just seven strokes. If Ted had parred the two triple holes and one of the doubles, he would have had his third career Web.com victory.

    As it was, he finished in a four-way deadlock for sixth, which showed just how difficult the Victoria National course in Newburgh, Indiana proved to be. Jason Gore wound up one stroke behind Lee at 5 under, and it was down four strokes to 1 under before the next two names turned up. 

    Ted earned a check for $19,675, and that raised his bank account for the season to $68,695. He moved up three spots on the money list to 15th, but it could have been a much more memorable weekend. The top 25 on the list at season's end earn their PGA Tour cards for next year and last year Joel Dahmen occupied the 25th spot at $150,267. So Ted is nearly halfway there with many events remaining, plus the playoffs.

    Next up on Ted's schedule is the El Bosque Mexico Championship, a $650,000 event beginning Thursday at El Bosque Country Club in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.  

    SEMINOLE AND GATORS, OH MY - At the Valero Texas Open, Kevin Chappell, who looks enough like Dustin Johnson to be his long-lost brother, collected the $1,116,000 winner's check and 500 FedEx points with a birdie on the final hole after Seminole Brooks Koepka had birdied the hole earlier to temporarily gain a tie with Chappell at 11 under par. Koepka picked up $669,000 and 300 points for his excellent showing. 

    The two Gators who made the cut both finished well, with resurgent Brian Gay deadlocking for sixth at 7 under and banking $200,725, along with earning 88.75 FedEx points, and Camilo Villegas tieing for 10th at 6 under, good for $155,000 and 70 points. 

    

Sunday, April 23, 2017
Ted's still in the hunt at 3 under . . .

    After taking the lead yesterday during the third round of the United Leasing & Finance Championship, before faltering in mid-round and dropping several places, Ted Potter was at it again this morning during the completion of the third round. He had begun with three straight pars, then birdied the par-4 fourth, and made a hole-in-one on the fifth to go three under for the round. After three straight pars, Ted birdied the par-5 ninth to turn in 4-under 32.

    He then birdied No. 10 to go 5 under for the round and 6 under overall and was tied for the lead with D. H. Lee. Ted parred 11 and 12 when play was suspended once again. After 48 holes, he had one eagle, 11 birdies, 31 pars, three bogeys and two doubles. He was No. 1 in putting gained by greens in regulation at 1.629. 

    When Ted continued his third round this morning, he bogeyed 13 to go back to 5 under, then went par, birdie, par and was 6 under with two to play. Then came the old bugaboo. Ted's tee shot on 17 was unplayable and he had to take a drop. By the time he finished the hole, he had taken a triple bogey 7, which included a three-putt green. He was back to 3 under, five strokes behind Lee, and tied for fifth with his finale set for just before noon. 

    

    

Saturday, April 22, 2017
Ted goes 4 over on 3 holes before play halted . . .

    Ted Potter took off like a rocket on the back nine of the United Leasing & Finance Championship yesterday, bolting into the lead after eight holes, but like a North Korean missile he quickly fell back to earth before play was mercifully halted due to darkness.

    After his opening-round 1-under 71, Ted began day two with birdies at 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16 and was the on top of the leaderboard at 6 under as he teed off on No. 18. However, in the span of about 45 minutes, he bogeyed No. 18 and No. 1, then took a double bogey on the par-4 second. Suddenly, he was back to 2 under and in a tie for seventh when the horn sounded to suspend play.

    That left Talor Gooch in the lead at 4 under as he was about to play No.12, with a logjam of five players at 3 under, including three who had finished their rounds - Jason Gore, Scott Gutschewski and Austin Cook. 

    GAY TIED FOR 17TH IN TEXAS - There's a tie at the top of the Valero Texas Open between Bud Cauley and Tony Finau at 8 under par, one stroke better than a quartet at 7 under. 

    Gator Brian Gay added an even-par 72 to his opening 68 and at 4 under is tied for 17th. One other Gator made the cut, which came at even par, as CamiloVillegas rebounded from his Thursday 73 for a 2-under 70 and is tied for 47th. Seminole Brooks Koepka made it to the weekend, too, with 68-74-142, 2 under. Missing the cut were Gators Billy Horschel (73-74), Matt Every (78-72) and Brett Stegmaier (75-78). 

     

 

Friday, April 21, 2017
Ted is 3 strokes off the lead . . .

    Ted Potter fashioned a 1-under-par 71 in the opening round of the United Leasing & Finance Championship in Newburgh, Indiana yesterday and he's tied for 12th place, three strokes behind a trio at 4 under. Abraham Ancer, Kyle Thompson and the incredibly-named Ryan Yip tied for the lead in the $600,00 event being played at the Victoria National Golf Club.

    Ted began with 11 straight pars over the 7,242-yard layout, then birdied 12 and 13 to get it to 2 under. But a bogey on the par-4 17th dropped him back to 1 under. The cut after round 1 was at 2 over. Central Floridian Rob Oppenheim is in the hunt at 2 under, tied for sixth.

    At the Valero Texas Open, Branden Grace took the early lead with a 6-under 66, one stroke ahead of four players at 67, including Stewart Cink. Seminole Brooks Koepka and rejuvenated Gator Brian Gay are both two strokes back in a tie for sixth, while four Gators are in danger of missing the cut, which stood at even par after day one. Camilo Villegas and Billy Horschel posted 1-over 73s, Brett Stegmaier 3-over 75 and Matt Every 6-over 78. 

    Gay had his best week of the season last week at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, shooting 68-70-69-67-274, 10 under par, and deadlocking for sixth, his first top 10 in quite awhile. He's earned $425,470 this year and has made seven of 10 cuts. 

    

Monday, April 17, 2017
Ted is 18th on the Web.com money list . . .

    The Web.com Tour moves to Newburgh, Indiana, this week, for the $600,000 United Leasing & Finance Championship and Ted Potter is back in action. Ted is currently 18th on the tour's money list with earnings of $49,270 in his quest to make "the 25," which would bring him back to the PGA Tour later this year.

    The money leader is Andrew Putnam with $171,100 and there are no less than eight players whose first names begin with A in the 25 right now. When Ted first made it through the Nationwide Tour several years back, he finished second on the money list with just over $402,000.

    Among the entrants this week are such familiar names as Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Jason Gore, Dan McCarthy (two-time winner of the Ocala Open at Candler Hills), and Central Floridian Rob Oppenheim. Also playing are three veterans of the PGA Tour who fall into the 48-49 year bracket and getting ready for the Champions Tour - Steve Flesch, Shaun Micheel and Peter Lonard.

    The Victoria National Golf Club is a par-72, stretching to 7,242 yards.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017
Brian Gay only one left standing . . .

    Only one Gator is left standing after the first two rounds of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, and that's Brian Gay.

    Brian shot 68-70-138, 4 under par, and he's tied for 25th behind Graham DeLaet and Luke Donald, who posted identical scores of 65-67-132, 10 under. Ian Poulter and Webb Simpson are tied for third at 8 under.  

    Camilo Villegas missed the cut of 1 under par with rounds of 70-72-142, even par, while Brett Stegmaier missed the weekend after rounds of 72-72-144. Billy Horschel followed up his opening 70 with a horrendous 78 and Matt Every withdrew after opening with 74 and posting a 42 on the front nine yesterday. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Potter returns next week in Indiana . . .

    One of the more interesting facets surrounding the fields on the PGA Tour from week to week is just what gets players eligible for each event. The RBC Heritage begins Thursday at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, and all five former Gators are playing, each one becoming eligible from a different category.

    Billy Horschel - winner of the Tour Championship in the last three years.

    Matt Every - winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the last three years.

    Camilo Villegas - sponsor's exemption.

    Brett Stegmaier - top 125 on FedEx Cup points list last season.

    Brian Gay - major medical exemption. 

    Seminoles Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger aren't entered after both made the cut and a nice paycheck in the Masters. Both began slowly, and improved their scores in each round. Koepka tied for 11th after posting 74-73-71-69-287, 1 under par, and collected a juicy $233,200. Berger shot 77-73-72-69-291, 3 over, and earned $78,100 for his deadlock for 27th. 

    Harbour Town is a par 71, playing to 7,099 yards.

    TEDDY'S BACK - Ted Potter confirmed he'll be back on the Web.com Tour trail when play resumes next week at the $600,000 United Leasing and Finance Championship in Newburgh, Indiana. Then he'll travel out of the country for the April 27, $650,000 El Bosque Mexico Championship and the May 4, $625,000 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. 

    The Champions Tour also resumes this week at the $1.8 million Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia. Gators Scott Dunlap and Mark Calcavecchia are entered, along with Adena pro Marco Dawson.  

    RATINGS DOWN - The drawing power of certain American players was clearly evident on Sunday in Augusta. Without Mickelson and Spieth and a couple of others near the top of the leaderboard, TV viewing was down 11 percent from last year. While Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia made for a riveting finish, it's obvious that two Europeans in the spotlight on the back nine is not enough to get much of the U. S. public on board.   

    

    

 

Saturday, April 08, 2017
Charley's 75 drops him to 4 under . . .

    The Ghost of Masters Past struck Friday as Charley Hoffman proved once again that no first-round lead is safe in the season's first major, not even for 24 hours. 

    After his masterful 7-under pounding of Augusta National on Thursday, giving him a seemingly comfortable four-stroke lead, Charley bolted right out of the gate yesterday with a birdie at No. 2 to go 8 under, then collapsed under the pressure and the wind and the chill to finish with 75 and drop into a deadlock with Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler at 4 under. And, as the man said long ago, the battle is joined.

     Sergio had a chance to distance himself from the field after birdies at the first three holes, but he, too, couldn't sustain it for 18 holes, taking three bogeys and three birdies the rest of the way.

    Within hailing distance of the leaders at 1 under are ageless Freddie Couples (73-73-143), Justin Rose (71-72) and Adam Scott (75-69), while Phil Mickelson had it to 3 under at one stage but wound up at even-par 144 (71-73). Both Seminoles made the plus-6 cut, Brooks Koepka with 74-73-147, 3 over, and Daniel Berger with 77-73-150, 6 over. There were 53 players left for the weekend.

    Emiliano Grillo righted himself after an opening 79 with a 2-under 70 for 149 and is tied for 35th. Aside from Couples, three others from the Champions Tour made the cut, Ernie Els (+3), Steve Stricker (+4) and Larry Mize (+6). The rest of the aged set will be watching on TV today, along with such stalwarts as Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed.  

        

Friday, April 07, 2017
Hoffman's 65 leads Masters by 4 . . .

    The venerable Masters took a major hit Thursday when Dustin Johnson pulled out due to his back injury incurred at home the day before, just moments before his scheduled tee-off time of 2:03. That left Charley Hoffman to steal the show with a 7-under-par 65 and a four-stroke lead.

    Dustin was shown on TV practicing on the driving range for quite awhile, but it was evident from his movements he wasn't comfortable and the withdrawal came as no surprise. The surprise turned out to be Hoffman, who overcame the elements - winds gusting to 30 and 40 miles per hour - despite a very slow start. Charley made two bogeys and one birdie on the first five holes, then unleashed a birdie barrage to leave the field behind. He birdied 6, 8 and 9 to turn in 2-under 34, and scorched the back nine with a birdie on 12, and four in a row from 14 to 17 for an incoming 31. He was four in front of William McGirt, who shot 69.   

    Lee Westwood emulated Hoffman somewhat, walking out of the gate with a 3-over 39 on the front nine. But the 44-year-old from England went Charley one better, making five birdies in a row from 13 through 17 for a 31 and 2-under 70. He was all alone in third, one stroke better than a group at 1 under which included Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. 

    The projected cut for the top 50 and ties was 3 over after day one, and many big names were in trouble. Seminole Brooks Koepka was under the line at 2-over 74, but Daniel Berger posted a 5-over 77. No Gators made the field. 

Monday, April 03, 2017
TV viewers are not referees or umpires . . .

    Just when we thought that the penalty called on Dustin Johnson when he grounded his club in a desert trampled by spectators at the U. S. Open was the most ridiculous thing we've ever seen, or would ever see, we realize that, in golf, the sky's the limit when it comes to absurdity.

    Yesterday's four-stroke penalty that cost Lexi Thompson the ANA Inspiration championship was so blatantly stupid we have to assume that this time, it can never be topped. But with these people, you never know.

    Here are the salient idiotic points: (1) That a TV viewer can email the LPGA or any organization and impact an event is mind-boggling. Imagine a fan coming out of the stands in an NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball game and pointing out an infraction to an umpire or referee. He'd be led off in handcuffs.  

    (2) That the 'infraction', and I use the word loosely, can be tended to 24 hours after it occurs is criminal. When does the statute of limitations run out? A day, a week, a month?   

    (3) That the penalty for putting a ball back a millimeter from its original spot, obviously not on purpose, is four strokes borders on the insane. It's an infraction that happens 5,000 times a day among the golfers of the world and has no impact on the game whatsoever. 

    (4) That an official can come out on the course on the back nine of a major, relay a decision concerning something that happened the day before and destroy a golfer's concentration, also belongs in the criminal category. 

    That Lexi was able to hang in there with a long putt for par, then birdie the 18th to tie So Yeon Ryu before losing in the playoff, shows a great deal about the stuff she's made of. She made thousands of new fans in that final hour of riveting TV. But losing a victory, and a major to boot, is not something that can be taken lightly. And that doesn't include the $154,409 difference between her paycheck ($250,591) and Ryu's ($405,000). 

    There are three major changes in the rules that should come out of this incident. First, NO MORE TAKING CALLS OR EMAILS FROM TV VIEWERS WHO HAVE NO LIFE. Second, if someone relevant discovers the infraction, there should be a time limit for its implementation. Third, change the rules about a four-stroke penalty. 

    It was Nanki Poo, I recall, in 'The Mikado' many decades ago, who first alerted us to this all-time great credo: "Let the punishment fit the crime." Yes, let's. 

    MASTERS OLDIES RETURN - Russell Hendley became the 94th and final player invited to the Masters after his 20-under 268 won the Shell Houston Open by three strokes over Sung Kang yesterday. Hendley collected $1,260,000 so he shouldn't have any trouble paying for lodging in or around Augusta, where rooms go for an arm and a leg during the second week of April. Kang won't be coming, but he has $756,000 to buy snacks for himself and his family while he watches on TV.

    Among Hendley's foes in the revered event will be a host of former winners who are currently playing on the Champions Tour, namely, Freddie Couples, Sandy Lyle, Vijay Singh, Mark O'Meara, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize, Lee Westwood, Trevor Immelman, Ernie Els, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal. It's always interesting to see which of the old-timers can make the cut and Couples and Langer are the two best bets this time.

    There is nary a Gator within hailing distance of Augusta, but both Seminoles - Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka - will get their chance for stardom. Berger prepped for the occasion by finishing all alone in fifth place in Houston with scores of 70-67-71-67-275, 13 under par. He earned a nice check for $280,000 plus 110 FedEx Cup points.

    Two Gators made the cut, Billy Horschel with even-par 288 ($15,750) and Matt Every (continuing his rebound) with plus-2 290 ($14,560). Brett Stegmaier surprisingly bowed out early with 75-86.  

Monday, March 27, 2017
Dustin Johnson completes Grand Slam . . .

    After missing the cut by one stroke at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, Ted Potter dropped from 13th on the Web.com Tour money list to 18th with his take of $49,270. He'll now be home for a month with the next event not scheduled until April 20. 

    Casey Wittenberg ended a long drought by winning in Louisiana, shooting 21-under-par 263, and defeating Xinjun Zhang by three strokes. Casey made a big statement toward getting back to the PGA Tour, jumping from 87th on the money list to fifth with earnings of $104,111.

    Of the many former PGA regulars who made a check, Robert Allenby tied for fifth at 14 under, Daniel Chopra tied for ninth at 13 under, D. J. Trahan tied for 35th at 9 under, Peter Lonard tied for 45th at 8 under, and 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel tied for 63rd at 2 under. Micheel turned 48 in January and is prepping for the Champions Tour. Central Floridian Rob Oppenheim tied for 58th at 5 under. 

    DUSTIN IS ON FIRE - By completing his total domination of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play yesterday, Dustin Johnson accomplished something not even Tiger can boast of, winning the WGC Grand Slam. Tiger won 18 WGC events, but not all four, while Dustin has five WGC victories, including all four. His feat of not trailing at any time all week over 112 holes, including during his 18-hole thriller over Jon Rahm in the finale, is mind-boggling. 

    In the consolation, bill Haas defeated Hideto Tanihara, 2&1, despite Hideto's unreal hole-in-one on the 207-yard seventh hole. He hit an 8 iron. 

    The $7 million Shell Houston Open is up next and many players will use it as a prep for the Masters, while others have opted to sit it out. Those going to Humble, Texas, include Gators Matt Every, Billy Horschel and Brett Stegmaier, plus Seminole Daniel Berger. Dustin, Rahm and Phil Mickelson will also play, along with seniors Davis Love and Ernie Els, while the aformentioned Robert Allenby snuck in, too. 

       

 

 

 

Saturday, March 25, 2017
Ted misses cut by one stroke . . .

    One unwelcome double bogey was enough to knock Ted Potter out of the Chitimacha Open in Louisiana yesterday, his first missed cut in five tries on the Web.com Tour this season. Ted's rounds of 70-71-141, 1 under par, fell one stroke short of the cut line in the $550,000 event.

    Ted got off to a good start in the second round with birdies at 10, 12 and 14 to go three under. Bogeys at 17 and 18 dropped him back to 1 under for the day, 2 under for the 27 holes, and right on the cut line. On the front side, he had birdies at 1 and 5, but a back-to-back bogey-double bogey string on 2 and 3 (a par 3) was enough to do him in. Ted needed one birdie over the final four holes to make it to the weekend, but he parred all four. 

    Casey Wittenberg is the 36-hole leader at 13 under par (65-64-129), three strokes better than Aaron Wise. Veteran Robert Allenby found new life for 36 holes and is tied for ninth at 7 under (67-67-135). Central Floridian Rob Oppenheim is at 3 under and former Gator Dudley Hart posted a pair of 70s for 140, 2 under, to make the cut. 

    PHIL GOING STRONG - The sweet sixteen at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play includes crowd favorites Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Seminole Brooks Koepka. Dustin's foe today is Zach Johnson for a Johnson & Johnson Saturday. 

 

Friday, March 24, 2017
Bogeys on 17 and 18 hurt . . .

    Ted Potter will have his work cut out for him this afternoon in the Chitimacha Open after bogeys on the final two holes yesterday dropped him from 3 under par to 1 under, one stroke short of the early projected cut line.

    Ted was sailing along at 3 under after 16 holes, with birdies at 2, 6 and 13, until the late bogeys sidetracked him. He tees off at 1:55 today.

    Nate Lashley is the early leader at 9 under, one stroke better than Kent Bulle in the $550,000 event being played at Le Triomphe  Golf & Country Club in Broussard, La.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Stanley picks him fifth in power rankings . . .

    Ted Potter has received a boost from PGATour.com analyst Adam Stanley regarding the Chitimacha Louisiana Open set to begin tomorrow at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club.

    In listing his power rankings for the event, Stanley picks Ted at No. 5, with this comment: "Potter has made every cut this season and has been the definition of steady with results of T13, T15, T12, T10. He was on the cusp of victory last year in Portland, and it just seems like the 33-year-old is due for a big finish." 

    The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play begins today with its purse of $9,750,000 and there are 16 groups of four slated for round one. The No. 1 seed is Dustin Johnson, with Rory McIlroy at No. 2, Jason Day at 3, Hideki Matsuyama at 4 and Jordan Spieth rounding out the top five. Phil Mickelson heads the 14th group. The two Seminoles are in, Brooks Koepka seeded No. 20 and Daniel Berger No. 35. 

    The $3 million Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club has three Gators on the menu, Matt Every, Camilo Villegas and Brett Stegmaier. Also in the field is Wade Binfield, who just won the Ocala Open at Candler Hills. Every made his first cut of the season at Bay Hill last week, shooting rounds of 73-70-74-76-293, 5 over par. Billy Horschel, who isn't playing anywhere this week, tied for 13th with 72-73-67-72-284, 4 under. 

    Tom Lehman, architect of the new Trilogy course on Highway 27 in Ocala, won the Tucson Conquistadores in Arizona with rounds of 66-67-66-199, 20 under par, edging Steve Stricker by one. Stricker faltered on the last three holes Sunday in his Champions Tour debut. Lehman earned $255,000 for the effort and is sitting in fourth place on the old guys' money list. Adena pro Marco Dawson posted rounds of 73-71-70-214, 5 under, ex-Gator Scott Dunlap shot 70-74-71-215, 4 under, and ex-Gator Mark Calcavecchia shot 79-68-71-218, 1 under. 

    

    

Monday, March 20, 2017
Ted is 13th on Web.com money list . . .

    Ted Potter is back in action this week at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in Broussard, La. Ted currently sits in 13th place on the Web.com Tour's top 25 list with earnings of $49,270. The tour leader, Andrew Putnam, is also entered - he's banked $171,100. The event has a purse of $550,000 with $99,000 going to the winner.

    Other familiar former PGA Tour players set to tackle the par-71, 7,004-yard course are Robert Allenby, Jason Gore, D. J. Trahan, Shaun Micheel, ex-Gator Dudley Hart, Tommy Gainey, Erik Compton, Daniel Chopra, Steve Flesch, Richard S. Johnson and Central Floridian Rob Oppenheim. 

    

Sunday, March 19, 2017
Georgian closes with 7-under 64 . . .

    Wade Binfield became a first-time winner of  the annual Ocala Open at Candler Hills and collected the first prize of $12,000. The Fayetteville, Ga. resident outlasted a solid field, prevailing by three strokes. He shot 70-65-64-199, 14 under par. 

    Ryan (The Great) Gildersleeve, winner of the last Florida Professional Golf Tour event at Ocala National a few years back, finished in a tie for third at 9 under par 204 and earned $5,000. The Clearwater resident was squarely in the hunt after opening with rounds of 65 and 69, but a final round of 1-under 70 was enough to let Binfield in the door.  

    Former PGA Tour player Patrick Sheehan deadlocked for fifth at 8 under and banked $2,875, while one-time teenage sensation Tadd Fujikawa of St. Simon's Island was at 5-under 208. 

    Tyler Hock of Dunnellon and Marty Musgrave of Ocala both missed the cut of even-par 142, each shooting 2-over 144. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017
His 143 total has him tied for 26th . . .

    Chronicling Matt Every's recent woes in yesterday's column turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for the former Gator. Matt posted a 2-under-par 70 in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational following his Thursday 73 and at 1-under-143, he made his first cut of the wraparound season in his 12th try.

    Matt made the cut (3 over) with room to spare, making one birdie on the front nine, and adding three birds and two bogeys on the back for a round of 35-35. He's tied for 26th going into the weekend, nine strokes behind leader Charley Hoffman. 

    Billy Horschel's 72-73-145 made the cut by two strokes, but Camilo Villegas missed it at 5-over 149. Brooks Koepka rebounded from his opening 78 with a 2-under 70 but it wasn't enough to keep him around for the final 36 holes. 

    WEESIE THREATENING - The LPGA Tour is in Phoenix for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, and there are 39 players within five strokes of the lead. Ariya Jutanugarn and Stacy Lewis are deadlocked at 13 under, and there are four tied for third at 12 under, including Golfer's poster gal, Michelle Wie. Weesie lipped several birdie putts yesterday or she would be in the lead, and she's hitting it so well this could lead to her first victory since 2014.

    Gator Sandra Gal is in the hunt with 66-69-135 and is tied for 21st at 9 under, along with Ha Na Jang, the last winner of Golden Ocala's Coates Championship. Brittany Lincicome, after a mediocre beginning (72), tacked on a 7-under 65 to get back in contention. 

    

Friday, March 17, 2017
Former Gator in midst of horrendous slump . . .

    It's been a rough two years for former Gator Matt Every, ever since he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in back-to-back seasons (2014, 2015) and gained three years of exemptions on the PGA Tour. But not much has gone right thereafter, and 2016 was a virtual disaster - 17 events entered, 1 top 25, 10 missed cuts, two withdrawns, and skimpy earnings of $158,453.

   Hard to fathom while considering he entered the 2016-2017 wraparound season with career earnings of $7,964,566, including one year of collecting more than $2.5 million.  

    The drought has continued since October, and coming into his favorite venue at Bay Hill this week Matt's ledger reads: 11 events entered, 10 missed cuts, one withdrawn, and zero dollars earned.  

    Yesterday, he took a major step toward turning it around, at least temporarily, by posting a 1-over-par 73 at Arnie's course,  and winding up day 1 in a tie for 46th. The projected cut line after 18 holes was 2 over. So far this season, he doesn't have one week under par, with his best a 69-72-141, 1 over, at the Sony Open.

    Could this be the day he breaks out of the slump? His round yesterday consisted of a back nine where he made two bogeys and one birdie, then nine straight pars on the front. It's somewhat encouraging.

    Emiliano Grillo and Matthew Fitzpatrick took the first-round lead with 5-under 67s, one better than Paul Casey and Charley Hoffman. Billy Horschel is at even-par 72, but Camilo Villegas (73) is in danger of missing the cut and Brooks Koepka (78) will have to shoot a career round to remain for the weekend. 

    Rory McIlroy (74), Henrik Stenson (75) and Zach Johnson (75) are also going to have to step it up to make it for the final 36 holes. 

Friday, March 10, 2017
Stenson, Henley both at 64 . . .

    With the biggest stars skipping the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, it was left for the second-tier players to carry the day in the opening round at Innisbrook yesterday. None of them did. Instead, it was unheralded Jim Herman who blistered the Copperhead course with a 9-under 62 to take a two-stroke edge over Russell Henley and Henrik Stenson, best of the big names who opted to compete.

    Matt Kuchar shot 3-under 68, Jim Furyk 2-under 69, Patrick Reed 1-under 70 and Justin Thomas even-par 71. Even par was the early projected cut line. Of the Gators, Brett Stegmaier was right on the cut line and tied for 55th, as was Brian Gay. Billy Horschel and Matt Every were both at 4-over 75. Seminole Daniel Berger shot 2-over 73. 

     

 

Monday, March 06, 2017
Marquee names sit this one out . . .

    The Valspar Championship begins at Innisbrook Thursday with many familiar names in the fold - Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Parick Reed and Henrik Stenson among them, plus a couple of well-known senior types, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh. But no Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day or Phil Mickelson. Or Tiger Woods.

    Without the latter group, the tournament in Palm Harbor just doesn't take on the same kind of significance of many of the other early-season events, like next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

    Dustin appears to be elevating himself an iota above the others, as his unreal driving ability gives him a huge advantage that most can't overcome. He also has an excellent short game, and he can putt with the best. He won the $9,750,000 WGC-Mexico at 14 under and collected another $1,660,000 with which to buy Paulina more great outfits.

    Dustin edged Tommy Fleetwood by one, and Tommy's disappointment can be ignored while he cashes his check of $1,045,000. Ross Fisher and upcoming star Jon Rahm tied for third and earned $497,000 each. Phil stumbled in the finale to an even-par 71 after he was squarely in the hunt at 10 under after 54 holes - he tied for seventh and took home $211,667. (By the way, if there was a combined PGA/Champions event and Tommy Fleetwood was paired with Mac O'Grady their team could be dubbed Fleetwood Mac).

    The Valspar, with its purse of $3 million, has drawn four Gators - Billy Horschel, Brett Stegmaier, Brian Gay and the biggest question mark coming out of Gainesville, Matt Every, who hasn't been able to get out of his own way for many months. Seminole Daniel Berger will be there after he shot 6 under in Mexico and took home $105,125. Brooks Koepka was 2 over and still earned $55,500.