Some notes and highlights from the second round of the Humana Challenge…
*David Toms was having a pretty good day — nothing to jump up-and-down about — but then he posted birdie-eagle-birdie on his last three holes, posting a seven-under 65 at Nicklaus Private, 16-under total for a share of the lead with Ben Crane and Mark Wilson
“A little bit surprising, because coming into the week my confidence wasn’t really high,” said Toms in his post-round presser when asked how stunned he was by his scores. “I didn’t play that well over in Hawaii, either tournament, so, but you never know. It’s the type of game that it is. You work hard and you hope that some things will click and put it all together.”
Yeah, I was surprised, too. Which is why I didn’t pick him to be on my Fantasy Golf team.
*Phil Mickelson off to a rough start, with a double-bogey-bogey in his first two holes, but he played the last 13 six-under, so that’s progress.
“I played much better and I was excited about how I was playing heading into this tournament, so I had a bit of a slap in the face with my first two scores,” said Phil.
“It has been a good week for me to identify some of the weaknesses (in my game). I had a good conversation with Butch (Harmon) and also a good practice session after the round yesterday to try to work it out. I think that having great weather on these golf courses with great practice facilities here in the Palm Springs area gives us a good foundation to start the year. And so I’ll go back this afternoon and practice for a couple of hours and get dialed in to see if I can put it together for tomorrow’s round and I’ll carry that momentum into next week.”
Mickelson is one-under through 36 holes and the cut is currently at six-under. He’s got some work cut out for him.
*Harris English put on quite the clinic today. I caught up with him and Richard H. Lee on No. 3 (their 12th hole), so I was lucky enough to witness the excellent show (by both, actually — Lee only shot 5-under, but had two-double on his first nine). What can I say, I have an eye for talent!
Harris shot a bogey-free 10-under 62 at Nicklaus Private. He kicked off his round with two birdies and just kept the momentum going all day. The University of Georgia grad, who won last year on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur, hits it deep, not to mention straight. He hit 16 out of 18 greens on Friday, just one more than Thursday, but a few more putts dropped at N.P. Apparently he had a better grasp of the speed than he did at La Quinta in the first round.
He made it look pretty effortless — fairway, green, hole or burned edge or lip-out. In the last seven or eight holes, I want to say his longest putt was 25 feet and that was for eagle on No. 4.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Harris, who is T4, three shots off the lead, afterward. “I really played the way I wanted to play. Hit it everywhere I wanted to, really only hit two shots where I didn’t want to, so that’s pretty good in an 18-hole round.”
Of those two, was one of them your second shot on No. 8?
“Yeah, exactly,” Harris, 22, replied. “I was kinda in between yardages, I went with the longer one to try and ease it and I kind of came out of it, so I short-sighted myself, but I made a good putt coming back…I knew i had enough club to carry the water, that’s why I went with the longer one. I got a little anxious on that shot, but I made up for it.”
He only had a 7-iron in after bombing his drive (“Yep, that was bombed”) 340-plus yards down the fairway (I mean, none of us could see the ball or tell if it had cleared the bunker because it was so long). Despite missing the green, he rolled in a curling, downhill 15-footer for birdie.
He says his driver is probably the best club in his bag. I can see why.
Harris and his caddie Joe Etter come up with random facts and numbers, and often correlate those to the years on the quarters that Harris will use as ballmarkers. Like at Q-school, he picked a quarter from ’95, the year Joe graduated from high school (Sorry, Joe, now everyone knows how old you are!). What was it today? ’67.
“This is what i used the first round of Sony when I played well, so maybe I should keep this one in my pocket,” said Harris.
*Ryan Moore showed up to PGA West with a stiff neck and headed to the fitness trailer to try to get it worked out. Sounds like it loosened up because he had the round of the day, firing an 11-under 61 at N.P. What’s more, he bogeyed two of the first three holes. Wait, so that would mean…yep, he shot 13-under the next 15 holes.
Check out his scorecard:
Moore also made the biggest move up the leaderboard, surging 103 spots after posting even at La Quinta in the first round. Scores are so low that 11-under puts him only at T14.
“The last thing I remember was being two-over through three and then I just walked off the 18th hole and I don’t really remember anything after that point or in between those two points,” said Moore. “Today obviously didn’t start out well or I didn’t start out doing what I would have liked to be doing after shooting even yesterday, so really that just kind of maybe freed me up.
“You know you got to go make some birdies and sometimes you try forcing it a little bit. And I just kind of let go and started playing some golf…I somehow stayed out of my way all day and I want to keep that going”
This is Ryan’s first week with veteran caddie Tony Navarro on the bag. Navarro was Adam Scott’s longtime looper until Scott let him go last May after The Players (turned out he was gunning for Stevie Williams…). Before the new hire in the off-season, Ryan has mostly had friends and family caddie for him. Last year his younger brother Jason was the primary looper, with pal J.D. Rastovski as the back-up (in the last few years Jason and J.D. would alternate every three weeks or so).
“We’re having a great week,” said Moore of him and Tony. “He’s a great guy with a ton of experience, obviously, and I thought that could really help me take that next jump in my career and starting winning a little bit more, so I’m excited to have him on the bag and excited for the year.”
I think it’s a great fit.
*Rory Sabbatini would like to clear some things up: He didn’t have a “confrontation” with Vijay Singh last week at the Sony Open, nor was he “jarring” with him. So here’s the quick version of what happened: during the third round Sabbo and Singh were paired together and on the first green, Vijay cursed at Sabbo’s caddie, Mick Doran, who was about 20 yards away and moved while he was lining up his putt. That’s right — Vijay wasn’t even putting or setup over the ball, but apparently decided to take his frustration out on Doran. Sabbatini calmly asked Vijay not to speak to his caddie that way, and Vijay snapped back, “F*&k off,” and told him to stay out of it because it wasn’t his business.
Neither he nor Mick would repeat exactly what Vijay said because it was so vile (but I’ll get to the bottom of this). However, they called the language, “appalling” and “embarrassing” for the three-time major winner.
“I won’t repeat the language (Vijay) used,” Sabbatini told me as he was wrapping up his practice session on Friday afternoon.”If it hadn’t been on the golf course, I would have let Mick have at him…anyone would have clocked him for what he said. It doesn’t matter who it is, you don’t speak to someone like that.”
I haven’t confirmed this 100%, but I am pretty sure Sabbatini followed through and filed a formal complaint to the Tour.
*Well, Dustin Johnson, who had knee surgery last November after the Presidents Cup, shot 40 on the back nine of La Quinta Country Club and withdrew. Color me five-shades-of not-so-shocked. Earlier in the week a source inside Team DJ said he was 50/50 (and not at all surprised, either, when I texted him with the news of DJ’s WD). However, Dustin said it had nothing to do with his knee.
“My knee is okay, I’m not worried about it,” he said. “My lower back is really stiff and hurting, which I think is from the way I’m walking or the fact that I have not walked a lot since the surgery. Yesterday was the first time I walked a full 18 holes.”
Golfers, such athletes!
Dustin added he still intends to play next week in San Diego.
That’s all for tonight. Tomorrow I’ll be following President Bill Clinton play with Greg Norman and Scott McCarron. I’ll probably be tweeting during the round, so if you’re not following me already, shame on you! Just kidding. Go here to follow me.
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)