NCGA Four-Ball Championship
Spyglass Hill GC
May 11-13, 2012
May 13, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – Just as they had two years ago Russell Humphrey and James Watt found themselves in a sudden-death playoff at the end of 54 holes of play, but this time the outcome worked in their favor.
“I tell you one thing, winning a two-hole playoff is a lot better of a feeling than losing a two-hole playoff,” said Humphrey.
“When we found out we were going to a playoff, Russ said to me ‘well we have done this before’ and that’s a huge advantage [to have],” said Watt.
The new four-ball champions had to square off against Casey Boyns and William Moore, the team they were paired with for the final 18 holes, as both teams came in with a 54-hole score of 11-under par 205. Humphrey and Watt felt in control of their own destiny after the 14th hole when they made birdie-4 to remain three shots up on Boyns and Moore, but that’s when their fellow competitors made their move. Boyns and Moore, who also were coming off of a birdie on 14, birdied 15 and then incredibly made an eagle-2 on the 17th hole. Moore, who hit his drive to just 55 yards away from the hole on the short par 4, knocked in his second shot to tie the lead going into the 18th.
“That made the 18th really tough to play, it was the first time all day where I really felt any nerves,” said Watt, where both teams parred to force a playoff.
After swapping pars on the first playoff hole (No. 10), Boyns and Moore got themselves in trouble off the ninth tee (the second playoff hole) as neither player had reasonable shots at the green. Moore drove his tee shot in the bunker, while Boyns hit his drive right of the cart path, forcing both players to layup well short of the green. Humphrey and Watt both had shots into the green, but Humphrey hit his approach over, while Watt hit his approach on the green 30 feet from the hole and flag high. After Boyns and Moore both missed their par putts from about 10 and 15 feet, respectively, Watt tapped in the two feet left he had for par to seal the win and let out a big cheer.
“We played like we wanted to win today,” said Watt. “We had a good game plan and we didn’t get ahead of ourselves.”
The Lodi residents were also very happy to lead throughout the three-day event as they became the first wire-to-wire winner since Taylor Travis and Ryan Sloane in 2008. On the other hand Boyns and Moore couldn’t have felt good about the outcome as now they have a second place, third place and two fourth place finishes in the last five years.
Finishing in third were 2011 champions J.R. Becko and Jason Higton, who shot a four-under 68 today to get to 10-under 206, one stroke shy of a playoff. A bogey-6 on the 14th hole spoiled their chances of successfully defending their title, despite an eagle on the 11th and finishing off with three birdies in their last four holes for a back nine of 32. Randy Haag and Darryl Donovan finished alone in fourth also posting a four-under 68 to finish at nine-under par 207. Teams of Eddie Davis and Jon Peterson and Scott Hardy and Rick Reinsberg round out the top five as the two both finished at eight-under par 208. Davis and Peterson had the round of the tournament with a seven-under 65 to vault into a tie for fifth.
May 12, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – Reminiscent of Friday, the weather Saturday was nearly identical: calm and pleasant in the morning, cold and windy in the afternoon. With the tee times reversing for Saturday play the scores balanced out fairly well. Additionally, the leaders remained the same as Russell Humphrey and James Watt stand alone in first, but their one-stroke lead is anything from safe as several teams are lurking.
Humphrey and Watt followed yesterday’s 66 with a two-under 70 to put them alone at a 36-hole score of 136. The duo teed off in the final group off of No. 1 at 2:20 p.m. and faced not only a tougher course setup, but also windier and colder conditions.
“I’m glad we held it together today in these tough conditions, we just as easily could have shot 78 instead of 70,” said Humphrey, who acknowledged that the 24-hour layoff between rounds made it tough to continue the momentum the two had yesterday.
He also pointed out that it’s even tougher that tomorrow will be a quick turnaround after the two finished around 7:30 p.m. When asked what it will be like to sleep on the lead, Humphrey said, “it will be easy only because of exhaustion.”
The two who lost the 2010 NCGA Four-Ball Championship in a playoff have been in contention before and hope to use it to their advantage. “Yeah, there is less anxiety having been here before and understanding that tomorrow is going to be a tough day,” said Humphrey.
Humphrey and Watt will be paired with the team of Casey Boyns and William Moore. Boyns and Moore, who started the day tied for second one off the lead, find themselves in the same position, this time though with second place all alone. The duo followed yesterday’s five-under 67 with a two-under 70, for a 137 36-hole total.
“We ham-and-egged really well today,” said Moore, recalling several sunken putts outside of five feet.
They have been regular contenders in recent NCGA Four-Balls as the two have five top 10 finishes in the last five years with three of those being top five finishes: 2011 (T4), 2010 (T10), 2009 (4), 2008 (3) and 2007 (T7). Moore would really like to see a positive change this year and find the winners’ circle this time around.
“We have a fairly good average finish, but we’ve never won,” said Moore. “We’d trade in all those second and thirds in for one win,” he said.
Coming in as the early 36-hole leaders were Danny Paniccia and Mike Stieler, who matched yesterday’s 69 to lead the morning wave with a 36-hole score of 138. The duo converted five birdies on the day, but made the turn at one-over par.
“We played great on the back nine,” said Paniccia, explaining that after back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9, they birdied three of their next four holes (10, 11, 13) and finished off with another on the 18th.
Paniccia and Stieler have been in contention before as the last two years they have finished tied for fourth (2011) and tied for third (2010), and really hope this is the year they breakthrough.
“This is an awesome tournament,” said Stieler. “This is the tournament of the year in my opinion.”
Also coming in at six-under par 138, in a place eerily similar to last year, are the defending champions J.R. Becko and Jason Higton. The duo were two shots off the lead last year going into the final day and came out on top with a one stroke victory. If Becko and Higton were to win tomorrow they would be only the second ever back-to-back champions in the event’s 46-year history.
“Being that it was a bleak chance for us to win, we are happy where we are,” said Higton. “We definitely want to [repeat].”
Scott Hardy and Rick Reinsberg, last year’s runners-up and the 2005 champions, also sit tied for third at six-under 138 as they matched yesterday’s 69 with another Saturday. The two will definitely be a team to look out for along with two-time winners Randy Haag and Darryl Donovan (2000, 2010), who sit alone in sixth place at five-under 139. The perennial duo shot the low round Saturday with a five-under 67.
The cut for the championship came at 147 with 41 teams qualifying for Sunday play. Play will begin at 7:30 with the last group featuring the leaders teeing off the first hole at 9:10.
May 11, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – Russell Humphrey and James Watt shot an immaculate six-under 66 Friday to take the first round lead at the 46th Annual NCGA Four-Ball Championship at Spyglass Hill. Starting off the 10th tee in the morning wave, the duo got off to a quick start as Humphrey birdied the 11th and Watt made back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th and added another on the 18th. Despite windier conditions on the seaside front nine, the two bookended their front nine with Humphrey making a birdie on No. 1 and Watt finishing off the day with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 9.
“I think the key to our success today was that we hit two balls in the fairway and two balls on the green for the majority of the holes,” said Watt, explaining that the only time the two really had to scramble was on the eighth hole when his partner had to sink an eight-footer for par.
“There was really never any stress in the round, the greens rolled nice and we were able to keep the momentum going,” he continued.
Humphrey and Watt have been in contention for an NCGA Four-Ball title before as they lost in a playoff two years ago to Randy Haag and Darryl Donovan. Unable to team up together in last year’s championship the two are trying to redeem themselves from 2010.
“This is our defense of that year,” said Watt.
Coming in close behind tied for second, posting five-under 67s are three teams: Casey Boyns and William Moore, Phillip Huff and Rob Martin, and Taylor Hobin and Kevin O’Brien. Boyns and Moore, who started off the 10th tee made back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th and three more on the front nine on Nos. 3, 6 and 7. Boyns made the first birdie on 15 and Moore made an impressive one on 16, where there were only a total of three birdies on the day. Boyns did all the scoring on the front nine converting all three of the birdies. The two should be in contention over the next two days as they finished in a tie for fourth place last year, which included a Saturday 66.
Huff and Martin, former champions of the Four-Ball event, having won a decade ago in 2002, also made five birdies on the day with no bogeys. Starting off the first tee Huff opened and closed the scoring with birdies on Nos. 5 and 18, while Martin made the birdies in between on Nos. 6, 11 and 15.
“We really weren’t close to a [team] bogey all day,” said Huff.
“We had some bogey-birdies,” explained Martin. “When one guy was in trouble it seemed like the other guy made birdie.”
Huff and Martin have taken a five-to-six year hiatus from the event, but are glad to be back in and competing as a team.
In the afternoon as the wind picked up temperatures dropped and the fog rolled in, scores were noticeably higher with the exception of Hobin and O’Brien, whom it didn’t seem to deter.
“The tough thing was the shifting wind,” said Hobin, explaining that the ball would start one way in the air and begin moving in the opposite direction.
The duo converted six birdies and one bogey in their round with their birdies coming on all odd-numbered holes: one, seven, nine, 11, 13 and 15. Hobin jokingly credited their outstanding play to his partner’s recently groomed mustache, while O’Brien said “the key contributor were the good greens” pointing out they putted very well.
Defending champions J.R. Becko and Jason Higton shot a solid four-under par 68 to put themselves in a tie for fifth place. The two scored six birdies on the day on Nos. 1, 6, 10, 14 and 17, but also made two bogeys on the day. The duo continued their bogeyless streak for the first 12 holes of their first round until taking a bogey-5 on the 13th hole—and a second on 16—extending it to 53 holes without a bogey going back to last year’s championship. Ironically, Becko and Higton’s last team bogey happened to be on the 13th hole during Friday’s round of last year’s championship.
“I feel like we walked away with a good round,” said Higton, pointing out that they were able to finish the round with back-to-back birdies.
The two are happy where they sit as they opened with a 68 last year for their championship run. “We left a few out there, but we feel good about our round,” said Becko. “If we can shoot 68 each day we’ll have a pretty good chance.”
Also in a tie for fifth place with Becko and Higton at 4-under par is a pair of familial teams Ricky and Anthony Stockton and Jason and Jack Anthony. The Stockton’s, who teed off of the 10th in the morning wave converted five birdies on Nos. 1, 7, 11, 12 and 17, with their lone bogey coming on 16. The Anthony’s, who posted one of few low afternoon scores teeing off the first hole, made Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 14 their birdie holes.
Tomorrow the two waves will reverse with the morning wave teeing off in the afternoon and the afternoon wave going out in the morning. The top 40 and ties will advance to Sunday’s final round.