Aug 01

Lehman giving the home fans a show at the 3M Championship

Greg Vara is covering this week's Champions Tour stop, the 3M Championship, for Devil Ball Golf.

BLAINE, Minn. -- The year was 2011 and the loyal fans that attend the 3M Championship on an annual basis were finally able to show their appreciation for the “hometown kid” in person.

Though eligible to play the 3M Championship since 2009, Tom Lehman, like many top PGA Tour professionals before him, still had some life in his game at the age of 50 -- enough to linger on the PGA Tour past the half-century mark. His refusal to give up on the PGA Tour and a hectic schedule made it nearly impossible to get back to the 3M Championship for his first couple of years on the Champions Tour, but when he finally got his chance to pay-back the golf fans of Minnesota, he didn’t disappoint.

Lehman opened with a 65 in 2011 and though he played well throughout the week, he fell just short of Jay Haas, who simply was not to be denied that year. Those in attendance that year figured it was only a matter of time before Lehman captured this title, but, due in large part to illness the past two years here, it’s been largely a struggle for Lehman at the 3M Championship…until this year.

Though annual attendance figures at the 3M Championship are very strong, there aren’t many fans that are willing to put in the time and effort to follow their favorite player all day. It may sound strange, but walking under the heat of the August sun for four to five hours is actually quite the commitment, but it’s a commitment that Lehman’s followers are willing to make. While sitting near the seventh green at the TPC Twin Cities, it’s not uncommon to overhear a conversation about which players are walking up the fairway, but no such conversations are needed when Lehman pierces the horizon. The horde that follows Lehman around this course is unmistakable, he is, without question the No. 1 draw here.

The love affair between Lehman and the Minnesota fans goes both ways. When asked what winning this event would mean, he responded, “It would mean a lot, I’ve won most of the biggest tourneys in this state and this would be a nice way to cap it off."

Even after posting an impressive opening-round 64, Lehman knows there is still plenty of work left. When asked if his experience in 2011 will make him more aggressive on the weekend this time around he said, “There’s no room for getting conservative out here."

If the wind continues to howl this weekend as it did all day Friday, Lehman may have to adjust his thinking and dial it back just a bit. However, no matter how fiercely the wind blows, the fans will be here all weekend, cheering aggressively for one of their own.

Jul 31

Billy Hurley III’s father found in Texas hotel

The father of PGA Tour player Billy Hurley III has been found in Texas after his family didn't know his whereabouts for more than nine days.

Willard Hurley Jr. was found "safe and sound" in the Lone Star state, according to Leesburg, Va., police. Someone recognized Hurley from news reports and notified police. Hurley declined to explain to officers why he had left home on July 19 in his truck with clothes and some cash.

Hurley was reported missing July 27, with his Naval Academy graduate son going public on Tuesday in hopes of identifying what happened to him. 

"I'm just hoping that he goes to check my tee time or check my score and sees this and understands that dad, we love you and we want you to come home," Hurley said Tuesday.

Hurley will make the cut at the Quicken Loans National at 2-under 140.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 31

Tiger Woods fires season-best 66, in contention at Quicken Loans National

Most no one expected this. Tiger Woods is in contention to win again on the PGA Tour.

Woods shot 5-under 66, tying his low round of the year and setting his best mark in relationship to par, to get into contention at his Quicken Loans National at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va.

The 14-time major winner started his Friday round on the 10th hole, where Woods started a run of four consecutive birdies on Thursday to complete the comeback from a hideous 3-over-through-four start. He wasn't able to capitalize like the day prior, but got off to his now typical slow start, sprinkling in a bogey at the par-5 14th after Woods barely got off the tee following a near whiff with his tee shot. However, Woods again rallied quickly, sticking his approach to the 15th to 3 feet for an easy birdie. Woods played an efficient 18th, leading to a 10-foot birdie to turn under par.

From there, Woods was all systems go. He stuck it close at the first and drained a 20-foot birdie at the fourth, both holes he bogeyed on Thursday. He again birdied both front-nine par 5s, with the second being his last birdie to round out the 66.

At 8-under 142, Woods posted his best 36-hole total since he went 66-61 en route to an eighth title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, next week's tournament the world No. 266 can only qualify for with a victory, which would get him back into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Woods hasn't put four good rounds together in a long time, so it's easy to hedge and wonder if he'll explode on the weekend under the pressure of securing an unlikely 80th PGA Tour win. However, Woods seems to know something we don't.

"I'm in a good spot. I'm looking forward to the weekend," Woods said with a knowing look. "I'm looking forward to getting after it."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 31

Tiger Woods rallies from rough start for 3-under 68 at Quicken Loans National

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Through four holes, it was looking like another reprisal of the Passion of Tiger. Snap-hook and a bogey on the first hole. A short-side miss from the fairway leading to a second bogey at the third. Another dropped shot at the fourth.

At 3 over through four holes, it seemed Woods was a few more bad ones away from indifference, the subsequent reemergence of the chipping yips and then a post-round head-hanging explanation of what went wrong -- again.

That's not what happened.

Instead, Woods somewhat surprisingly rallied to shoot a 3-under 68 that has him in the top third of the field at the Quicken Loans National.

The 14-time major winner began the comeback with routine-looking birdies on the two par 5s on the front nine at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, completing the opening half with a par at the ninth.

It was on the 10th tee where Woods started his rally. He his four consecutive approach shots inside 12 feet, making all four birdies putts to turn a 1-over round into a 3-under effort that had the weather-weakened crowd buzzing as though Tiger was actually back to his old self. 

Woods played effective golf to the house, but couldn't sink any of three slightly longer mid-range birdies bids to improve his score. He trails Retief Goosen and Ryo Ishikawa by five shots heading into Friday's second round.

The world No. 266 admitted this was a test of will.

"I didn't do anything different (after the poor start)," Woods said afterward. "I said stay patient and it will turn, which I did. I turned it around."

Woods said he aimed to get back to even at the turn, which wasn't outlandish considering the two par 5s still ahead of him. He was able to attack some of the easier holes on the first-time host course, managing to fix a hook tendency at the start of the round. 

Ahead of the tournament, Woods said in a news conference that he hasn't been able to use his strengths to turn potential disaster rounds into respectable scores. Reminded of that comment after his Thursday effort, Woods savored in what he accomplished.

Woods said, "This is one of those days."

Baby steps, perhaps.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 30

Support wounded warriors by playing in World’s Largest Golf Outing

Entering its fifth year on Aug. 3, the World's Largest Golf Outing has become a day of gratitude, charity and patriotism.

The brainchild of Billy Casper Golf, WLGO is a one-day, nationwide event which brings together four-player teams to enjoy a day of golf and raise money in support of Wounded Warrior Project. Some 140 courses, owned and operated by BCG, Troon Golf and Toll Golf, participate, offering a 9- or 18-hole round, cart, lunch and prizes, and includes a $10 per player donation to WWP. 

Players do not need a USGA handicap to participate and can sign up as a single or part of a group of two or four. Over 8,100 players have signed up so far, with 500 wounded warriors among the entrants. In 2014, over 10,000 players participated.

All players are entered into a drawing to win a trip for four to the Nike headquarters in Oregon for custom club fitting. The highest fundraising team wins a trip for four to Kiawah Island, S.C., to play the Ocean Course at the resort which hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.

Participating courses often organize unique events to inspire reflection on the purpose of the day, ranging from a performance of the national anthem to color guard ceremonies to the presence of military vehicles.

In the previous four years of the event, more than $2 million has been raised in support of the organization which offers programs to help injured soldiers integrate back into society and live fuller lives.

The deadline to sign up to play is July 31, with online fundraising continuing through Aug. 7.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 30

Rickie Fowler make last-shot ace, buys beer for the media after round

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Cheers, Rickie.

Rickie Fowler ended his first round at the Quicken Loans National on Thursday with a hole-in-one at the par-3 ninth at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Fowler used a 7-iron on the 200-yard downhill hole to make his second career PGA Tour ace and first since his pro debut at the Open in 2009.

"We had 176 was the adjusted number," Fowler said of the shot that finished off a 4-under 67. "Spun to the right. I was trying to cut it. Rolled in with perfect speed."

Fowler could have walked off then and there, leaving playing partners Ben Crane and James Hahn to finish out, but the 2015 Players winner stuck around to shake hands and wrap everything up formally. 

However, the celebration continued for Fowler after the round, as he sent a bucket of beer to the media tent. 

Tony Lema was dubbed "Champagne" for his willingness to buy the bubbly for the scribes. So what should Rickie be called? Suds?

Fowler's ace wasn't the only one on a soft Day 1. Ryo Ishikawa made an ace at the par-3 fourth hole that took him to 8 under par, where he finished his round with a 63 to take a share of the lead.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 29

The 19th Hole Golf Show: With Rory in doubt for the PGA, is this Jason’s time?

On this week's podcast, we start with what we might glean from Rory McIlroy missing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

We touch on Tiger Woods' indifference about golf and the sudden rumor that he has fired swing consultant Chris Como in search of his own golf game.

Finally, Robert Allenby reaps what he sews in his incident with ex-caddie Mick Middlemo.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesTuneIn or Stitcher.

Jul 29

Donald Trump to visit Women’s British Open at his Turnberry Resort

Donald Trump couldn't help himself.

The 2016 presidential candidate will leave the campaign trail and head to Scotland for a two-day visit at his Turnberry resort, which hosts the Ricoh Women's British Open starting Thursday.

“I own Turnberry, in Scotland, one of great resorts in world,” Trump tweeted. “Women’s British Open there this week. I’ll go for two days & back on trail.”

Just great.

Trump's appearance, complete with a self-indulgent news conference on Thursday, takes away from the start of the LPGA's fourth major of the year. Instead, it brings into view Trump, who outraged golf's governing bodies with an assertion that the sport supports his position concerning Mexican immigrants. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan added that he would have preferred to move this championship from Trump's property, but the timing of Trump's comments made that impossible. In response, Trump wrote an open letter to Whan, saying he would let the LPGA out of a contract (it actually doesn't have) with his company to put on the Women's British at Turnberry.

Reaction to Trump and his forthcoming visit were mixed.

''It really distracts us from the great tournament that we have this week,'' said Michelle Wie.

Lizette Salas, the child of Mexican immigrants, said Trump's comments were wrong.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but, his words, a lot of people listen to him and hear him because he’s a big name,” Salas said, according to the Telegraph. “I’m proud of my heritage, proud of where I come from, not ashamed of being born of Mexican immigrants."

Karrie Webb seems to represent the opinion of most players, hoping that Trump will quickly step aside to let the historic venue, which will undergo a renovation starting in late September, and the tournament shine.

“We are playing such a great historical venue,” Webb said, according to Golfweek. “I really just think that’s the focus of the week.”

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 29

Rory McIlroy out of WGC-Bridgestone, but PGA status remains unknown

Rory McIlroy still isn't ready to play golf. He announced Wednesday that he won't defend his title next week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament he won as part of a three-event winning streak including the final two majors of 2014.

"Unfortunately, I will not be defending my Bridgestone title," said McIlroy. “Best of luck to all the competitors, and I look forward to returning to Firestone in 2016.”

Instead, McIlroy will continue to nurse the ruptured ligament he suffered in his left ankle during a July 4 soccer game with friends.

With the WGC in Ohio serving as the final tune-up before the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, there's more doubt that the world No. 1 will be able to defend the Wanamaker trophy in Wisconsin. The last PGA champion to not defend his title was Ben Hogan, who won the 1948 title but did not play the next year as he was recovering from a near-fatal car accident.

McIlroy's absence from Firestone Country Club also opens the possibility of Jordan Spieth becoming the top-ranked player in the world. Were Spieth to win the week before the PGA, he would take over the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.