Friday, February 17, 2017

Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders takes early lead at rain-hit Genesis Open

By Mike McAllister
Notes and observations from Thursday’s abbreviated opening round of the Genesis Open, where Sam Saunders leads by two shots after a 7-under 64. A total of 48 players hope to finish their first rounds Friday morning, weather permitting.
Arnold Palmer won this event three times. But never at Riviera. Thus, Sam Saunders wasn’t able to gleam any inside course knowledge from his legendary grandfather before he passed away last September.
Evidently, Saunders didn’t need it. In his first round at Riviera, Saunders – playing on a sponsor’s exemption -- shot a 7-under 64. That ties for his lowest score in 221 career rounds on the US PGA Tour.
Palmer’s wins at the then-Los Angeles Open in the mid-1960s were at Rancho Municipal. He played just five times after Riviera began hosting the tournament in the 1970s.
“We didn’t talk necessarily specifically about this course,” Saunders said. “He just always talked about how much he loved coming out here and playing. I think his celebrity matched pretty well with the celebrity atmosphere that you have here, so he was obviously very comfortable with that.”
Since his grandfather’s passing – Saunders provided the emotional tipping point with his moving speech at the memorial service – he has joined the board of the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation, and anticipates having more involvement during next month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
But at the end of the day, his focus remains on golf. He spent time in the offseason in Florida to work on his game, but hasn’t had that as much practice since returning home to his wife and children in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“We’ve had a foot of snow on the ground,” he said, “and I haven’t been able to get out and play as much.” Saunders knows the week at Bay Hill will be an emotional one, but he wants it to be a celebration of his grandfather’s life.
 “We all miss him,” he said. “It’s not just me. People come up and say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’ The truth is, we all lost somebody that meant a great deal to us and did a lot for all of us. It’s not just me.”

Entering Thursday’s first round, Padraig Harrington had not touched a club for four days since missing the cut at Pebble Beach. Nerve injuries in his shoulder forced him to withdraw from this week’s pro-am.
But the time off served him well, as he shot a 4-under 67, his lowest opening round at Riviera since his first start here in 2007 when he shot 63. Although he’s glad to be in the mix, Harrington may soon face a tough decision.
 If his nerve issues continue to linger, he may need surgery, which would put him out of action for 12 weeks. Because of the lengthy rehab time, Harrington must decide soon whether to go under the knife. He does not want to miss The Open Championship, which will be played this year at Royal Birkdale, site of his 2008 major win.
“I kind of have to make a decision in the next couple of weeks,” Harrington said, “to give myself time to get ready for The Open, which is obviously the biggest thing on my schedule this year.”
Harrington said he will definitely play next week at The Honda Classic, a tournament he’s won twice, and then evaluate from there. Rest might fix the problem, but if he takes too much time off and still has an issue, then The Open might be in jeopardy.
He visited a doctor this week and had a cortisone shot, but he doesn’t know if that will make much of an impact. “The problem is, I’m not in pain,” he said. “It takes the pain out.” The trapped nerve in his shoulder is causing him weakness in his shoulders, preventing him from doing push-ups. He also has numbness down his right side, even to the tips of his fingers.
 “I keep getting paper cuts on my finger,” Harrington said. “I don’t remember getting those.”

Dustin Johnson was on the first green when he got stung by a bee. What stung worse was failing to birdie the par-5 496-yard hole, which last year was the easiest hole on the US PGA Tour. Johnson found the right rough with his tee shot, then hit what he described as an “awful” second shot that landed on the fringe of his green.
 He couldn’t get up and down for birdie. Of course, the bee sting didn’t help. But Johnson answered back with two birdies to eventually finish at 5-under 66, prime lurking position after the first round. “It didn’t help the golf swing,” Johnson said of the bee sting, “but I did make two putts. The golf course gave me a little love back after I got the bee sting.”

There’s a 100 percent forecast for rain and high winds Friday in California. Many players finishing early on Thursday didn’t expect to hit another shot until Saturday. “I mentally prepared for not playing golf tomorrow, actually, as I approached this week,” said Sam Saunders.
 “I said I’ll try to go and get off to a good start and know that day two is probably not going to happen until Saturday.”
South African Branden Grace told playing partner Brandt Snedeker “that we might have two days off.” Dustin Johnson was just glad to finish his round, given the morning fog delay Thursday.
“It’s definitely nice having a later tee time tomorrow because I can get up and kind of see how things are going,” Johnson said. “We’ll know if we’re going to play or not, where the other guys, they’re going to have to be out here early in the morning.”

par 71. Players from USA unless stated otherwise
64 Sam Saunders.
66 Dustin Johnson, J T Poston, Daniel Summerhays, Brett Stegmaier, Cameron Percty.
67 Marc Leishman (Aust), Padraig Harrington (Ireland), Billy Hurley III), Phil Mickelson, Pat Perez, Branden Grace (S Africa) Kevin Na, Byeong Hun An (S Korea), Jason Kokrak.

68 Luke Donald (Eng) (T18)
69 Justin Rose, Paaul Casey, Graeme McDowell (N Ireland) (T30)
70 Martin Laird (Scot) (T41).
72 Sergio Garcia (Spn) (T72)
Field of 144




Post a Comment

<< Home

Copyright © Colin Farquharson

If you can't find what you are looking for.... please check the Archive List or search this site with Google