|Stadler finishes long day in the lead at Barclays|
|Friday, August 23, 2013 12:20 AM|
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Kevin Stadler teed off just after breakfast and finished right before dinner. It took him nearly 11 hours to complete a 7-under 64 at Liberty National, his lowest score on the PGA Tour since the first week of February. And he still isn’t guaranteed to be the first-round leader at The Barclays.
The FedEx Cup playoffs got off to a soggy start Thursday with two rain delays that lasted six hours.
It was a start-again, stop-again day on the bank of the Hudson River that didn’t stop Stadler. He ran off three birdies early, then returned from the second delay and threw in four more birdies on a soft golf course.
Asked if it was difficult to stay mentally prepared, Stadler replied, “I’m never really mentally prepared. Same as usual. It was all good.”
Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world and in this playoff series, came out of the first delay by missing a short birdie putt on the par-5 13th and then rolling in three straight birdies to get into the mix. He cooled slightly after the slightly longer second delay and failed to make birdie on any of the par 5s in his round of 67.
Woods didn’t mind the long day. He was more concerned about the next long day on the horizon.
Only the top half of the draw finished the round. The later starters — Ben Crane played only two holes — were to resume the round this morning and then go straight to the second round. That left the top half facing extra holes on Saturday to get the tournament caught up.
“We’re done,” Woods said. “It was a long day and tomorrow will be a short one. And then Saturday will be pretty much a marathon.”
British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Adam Scott were among those who didn’t finish. PGA champion Jason Dufner had a 71, while U.S. Open champion Justin Rose recovered from a double bogey on the par-5 13th for a 68.
Camilo Villegas, who started the season with conditional status and is No. 110 in the FedEx Cup standings, ran off four straight birdies around the turn and was the only player to reach 8 under — for now — until back-to-back bogeys late in his round. He had a 65, along with Henrik Stenson and Ryan Palmer.
Jason Day and Matt Kuchar shot 66. Day made two bogeys that kept a good round from getting away from him. His ball dropped over the rocks and into the water to the left of the fifth green and he got up-and-down from there. On his closing hole, the par-4 ninth, his drive went deep into the bushes and forced him to take a penalty drop. He got onto the green and made another bogey.
The rain allowed for some low scoring at Liberty National, which hosted The Barclays in 2009 and produced a winning score of 9 under. The course also went through significant changes to soften some of the landing zones and green complexes. Plus, there is virtually no rough.
Nothing allows for low scoring quite like soft conditions, however. Nearly half of those who finished their rounds shot in the 60s.
That group might have included Rory McIlroy, except for a few loose swings. He had three double bogeys and still managed a 71. McIlroy blasted out of a bunker and over the 15th green. His approach found the water on No. 5. And his tee shot on the ninth took a wicked kick off the cart path, over the bushes and a fence and out-of-bounds.
Stadler needed a good start. He hasn’t had a top 10 since New Orleans in late April and started these playoffs at No. 87. Only the top 100 advance to the second tournament next week outside Boston and the top 70 from there go on to the third event in Chicago.
“I’ve had a pretty lousy summer,but really started hitting the ball a lot better a couple of weeks ago and was looking forward to playing some golf again here recently,” he said. “Finally got something out of it today.”
Stadler has not played in any of the World Golf Championship and only one of the majors — the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut — so this event feels like a big one. It also happens to have arguably the strongest and deepest field on the PGA Tour, particularly since everyone earned a spot based on this year’s play.
“All those guys are here this week, so in that regard, it’s pretty cool,” he added. “But it’s just another week.”
Stenson last year started the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 117 and was gone after one week. He is one of the hottest players in golf, having been runner-up at the British Open, the Bridgestone Invitational and he was third at the PGA Championship. He is No. 9 in the standings this year and his 65 on a long Thursday showed why.
“I came in from Europe on Monday night, so I’m a bit jet-lagged and I only saw the course once,” Stenson said. “I’m very pleased with the way I played out there and took advantage of some good shots. And it was a little bit of a shaky finish.”
He missed a short par putt on the par-5 eighth hole and had to make a 6-footer for par on the last.
Defending champ Ko tied for lead in Canada
EDMONTON, Alberta — Lydia Ko was back on top of the Canadian Women’s Open leaderboard.
The 16-year-old Ko, the winner last year at Vancouver Golf Club at an LPGA Tour-record age of 15 years, 4 months, shot a 5-under 65 on Thursday in perfect conditions at Royal Mayfair for a share of the first-round lead with Angela Stanford and Christel Boeljon.
Ko, the South Korean-born New Zealander, had six birdies and a bogey. She birdied the opening hole, though she figured that might be a bad omen.
“When I start off with a birdie I haven’t really played that well, so yeah, I was kind of nervous that I did make a birdie on the first,” Ko said.
She felt some pressure entering the tournament.
“Because you’re the defending champion, people are going to expect more,” she added. “I called my dad a couple of days ago and he just said, ‘Relax. You can’t control everything. Just play the game that you want to play’.”
Stanford rebounded after going 0-4 last week in the United States’ Solheim Cup loss in Colorado.
“Try to take positives from it,” Stanford said. “It’s hard because I’m the only one that has to live with it. I’m the one that it’s probably haunting the most. So it’s been really hard. I thought about going home a few times. … The best thing was for me to get back on the horse. I had to get out and play and I guess just try to put it behind me.”
The Texan birdied five of the first 12 holes in her bogey-free round.
Boeljon had a hole-in-one with a 9-iron on the 126-yard 16th hole. The Dutchwoman also had a bogey-free round, playing Nos. 15-17 in 4 under.
“I only realized it by the lady that was behind the green that put her hands up and I was like, ‘I guess it’s in.’ We couldn’t see with the sun. Everyone was high-fiving, so we got up to the hole, and we see it’s in. It helps your score out a lot.”
U.S. Solheim Cup teammates Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr shot 66.
Top-ranked Inbee Park, a 6-time winner this year, was at s stroke back at 67 along with fellow South Korean star Na Yeon Choi, France’s Karine Icher and Canada’s Jennifer Kirby.
Charley Hull, the 17-year-old English player coming off a strong performance last week in Europe’s victory, had a 69 playing alongside Ko and Kirby. Hull bogeyed the final two holes.
Second-ranked Stacy Lewis opened with a 74. The Women’s British Open winner in her last stroke-play event, Lewis bogeyed five of her first seven holes.
Wiesberger, Gonzalez share lead in Gleneagles
GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina took full advantage of ideal scoring conditions to shoot 7-under 65s Thursday and share a 1-shot lead after the first round of the Johnnie Walker Championship.
The 27-year-old Wiesberger capped his round with three closing birdies as he tries to make amends for losing out in a 5-man playoff two years ago on the PGA Centenary course set to host next year’s Ryder Cup.
The 352nd-ranked Gonzalez is a 4-time Tour winner but has gone four years without a victory.
Six players, including the English trio of Oliver Fisher, Ross Fisher and Mark Foster, were a shot behind.
Women’s Australian Open set for Victoria
MELBOURNE, Australia — The Women’s Australian Open will be played at Victoria Golf Club on Feb. 13-16.
Tournament officials wrote in a statement today that Jiyai Shin, the winner this year at Royal Canberra in the LPGA Tour season opener, will return along with Australian veteran Karrie Webb, a 5-time Australian Open champion.
It is the first time in 38 years that Victoria Golf Club will host the Women’s Australian Open.