Wells Fargo Championship 2016
Round 4 - James Hahn wins in a playoff
May 8, 2016
James Hahn said the anxiety was creeping in after missing eight straight cuts on the PGA Tour, causing him to wonder if he'd ever get his game straightened out.
But after a long talk with caddie Mark Urbanek last week, Hahn came to Quail Hollow Club with a renewed confidence and determination to end the streak.
He did that and more.
Hahn beat Roberto Castro with a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday in the Wells Fargo Championship to snap the three-month slump and earn his second PGA Tour title.
''It was going bad for a while,'' Hahn said. ''Just didn't have the confidence, didn't believe in myself. I felt like I was putting in the work but wasn't getting any reward for it. ... You're playing bad and you're missing cuts and there's nothing funny about that.''
The anxiety appeared a distant memory Sunday as a smiling Hahn cracked open a can of Bud Light as he sat behind the podium and asked the media, ''You want one?''
Hahn, perhaps best known for his ''Gangnam Style'' birdie celebration three years ago on the Phoenix Open's rowdy 16th hole, said when things got bad he remained motivated by never wanting to lose his PGA Tour card and having to play on the Web.com Tour.
''I just told my wife, I can't play there - I can't,'' Hahn said. ''It's not an option for me. I feel like I'm good enough and I need to put in more work to stay on this level, and it's worth every minute of it. ... I have a lot of people counting on me.''
He won't have to worry about that now for quite a while.
In winning, Hahn picked up the $1.3 million prize and an automatic two-year extension on the PGA Tour, not bad for a former Bay Area women's shoes salesman.
''You have to keep believing in yourself and keep grinding. I constantly remind myself that I am good enough and belong out there,'' Hahn said.
Hahn said he never looked at the scoreboard all day and didn't know that if he'd made par on the 72nd hole that he would have likely sealed the tournament. Instead, he 3-putted and made bogey, opening the door for Castro.
Castro, playing in the final group behind Hahn, made par to force a playoff.
But Castro's tee shot on the playoff hole found the creek on the left side of the fairway and his third shot landed in a spectator's shoe on the side of the green, leading to a bogey. The ball hit a spectator in the head before landing in the loafer.
''I was worried he was going to be laid out when we got up there,'' Castro said. ''He'll ice it down and he'll be OK, I hope. But I felt bad about that.''
Hahn shot 2-under 70 on Sunday, and Castro had a 71 to finish at 9 under, one shot ahead of Justin Rose (71). Hahn also won the 2015 Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson both shot 66 to tie for fourth at 7 under with third-round leader Rickie Fowler (74) and Andrew Loupe (71).
Both Castro and Hahn had chances to win in regulation.
Castro broke a tie when he rolled in a birdie putt from 6 feet on the 15th hole to get to 11 under. But he quickly gave the lead up with bogeys at 16 and 17 on the ''Green Mile,'' the toughest closing holes on the PGA Tour.
Despite the playoff loss, Castro refused to the dwell on the negative.
''Sure it hurts to let this tournament specifically slip away, but there are 154 guys that didn't have a chance in that playoff and I feel grateful to have had a chance,'' Castro said.
Like Castro, the 18th hole ultimately proved to be the undoing for McIlroy and Mickelson, too.
McIlroy played the 493-yard hole in 4-over par for the week, including a bogey Sunday when his approach shot landed behind a rock on the other the side of the creek that runs along the left side of the hole. Lefty was left to ponder what could have been had it not been for a quadruple-bogey 8 on the hole Saturday.
''I hit a lot of good shots over the weekend, but unfortunately, one bad hole yesterday kind of cost me,'' Mickelson said.
McIlroy had seven birdies in between his bogeys the first and last holes.
''Anytime you walk off the golf course and shoot 66, you can't be too disappointed,'' McIlroy said. ''But I think in the circumstances having a feeling like I had a chance on the back nine to post a number for the guys to at least think about it and I didn't.''
Fowler got off to a poor start, shooting 39 on the front nine and never mounted a challenge.
Round 3 - Rickie Fowler edges ahead
May 8, 2016
Rickie Fowler is looking to jumpstart his season at a course where he first won on the PGA Tour.
Fowler shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take the third-round lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Fowler, who broke through at Quail Hollow Club in 2012 for his first tour title, had a one-stroke lead over Roberto Castro, with Justin Rose and James Hahn two strokes back.
Fowler won The Players Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship last year and took the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi early this year. Though he blew a late lead and lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff this season, he has the confidence to handle pressure situations in the final round. That's something he admitted he didn't have five years ago.
''It's completely different,'' Fowler said. ''I would say before (it was) maybe not the complete belief or knowledge of knowing what to do and how to win to get the job done. But now it's fun to go out there and go take care of business.''
Castro was atop the leaderboard most of the day, but bogeyed the 18th hole for a 71.
Winless on the tour, he said he's looking forward to playing with Fowler in the final group Sunday.
''If you want to win a tournament out here and really win a marquee event like this one, you're going to have to grab your hat and play with one of the top five players in the world probably the final round,'' Castro said. ''So that's what I've got tomorrow so I'm excited about it.''
Fowler parred the first seven holes Saturday before heating up with three straight birdies on Nos. 8-10. It appeared things were starting to crumble after bogeys on 10 and 12, but Fowler came back strong with three straight birdies starting on No. 14 to pull into a tie for the lead.
He had a little luck along the way.
Fowler avoided potential trouble on the 18th hole when his ball held up in the high grass instead of rolling into the creek along left side of the fairway. Playing with the ball well above his feet, Fowler ripped an iron onto the green and saved par.
Phil Mickelson and defending champion Rory McIlroy struggled, dropping eight shots behind Fowler.
Mickelson, looking for his first win at the Quail Hollow Club in 13 starts, was in contention until a quadruple-bogey 8 on his old nemesis, the 18th hole. He finished with a 76.
He found the creek on his approach shot and, after taking a drop, needed three chips before finding the green and two-putting for an 8.
Mickelson's struggles on the final hole at Quail Hollow have been well documented. In the 51 career rounds, he is 21 over on No. 18 - a hole he said earlier this week simply doesn't set up well for the left-hander.
McIlroy, the tournament's only two-time winner, had two bogeys in the first four holes and shot 73.
The two-time tournament champion who shot 11-under 61 last year in the third round on his way to a runaway victory, couldn't muster that same magic on Saturday.
He struggled throughout his round with his accuracy off the tee and putting. A double bogey on the ninth hole and bogey on the 11th seemed to zap him of any momentum and likely a chance at becoming the tournament's first three-time winner.
McIlroy said the course is ''tricky,'' especially on the back nine but said his game still isn't where it needs to be.
''There's been spells where it's been good and I've had a couple of chances to win this year, but it's a work in progress,'' said McIlroy, who has not won on the PGA Tour this season. ''I'm trying to stay patient, as patient as possible, but there are definitely times out on the course where I get quite frustrated.''
Rose has quietly put himself in contention on Sunday after rounds of 70, 70 and 69.
He said the course, which will host the PGA Championship next year, is playing extremely hard especially given the gusty wind this week.
''This type of scoring would definitely hold up in a PGA Championship,'' Rose said. ''They're not looking for us to shoot even par like a U.S. Open. Single digits under par is really good golf and it's a sign of a great golf course.''
Round 2 - Andrew Loupe leads at halfway
May 7, 2016
Phil Mickelson said this week it is ''imminent'' that he'll win the Wells Fargo Championship sooner or later.
The 46-year-old is in contention once again at one of his favorite tournaments, although he will need to outplay former champions Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler to make good on that prediction this week.
Andrew Loupe topped the leaderboard Friday at 8 under after a 71, an up-and-down round with four birdies and three bogeys. Roberto Castro was a stroke back after a 66, the best round of the day. He eagled No. 18, one of the toughest closing holes on the PGA Tour.
Chesson Hadley and Mark Hubbard were two shots back. Hadley had a 67, and Hubbard shot 68.
But big names were looming.
Fowler shot a 68, and Mickelson had a 70 to reach 5 under. McIlroy, the defending champion and only two-time winner of the event, bogeyed the final two holes for a 69 to drop six strokes back.
Mickelson has tied for fifth or better six times in 12 starts at Quail Hollow, but has never won.
While Mickelson said it's ''still a little early'' to start thinking about winning. He was striking the ball well the past week in practice, but can't put his finger on why he's missing so many fairways with his driver.
''My touch around the greens, my short game is as good as it's been in a long time and I think it will save me if I happen to not strike it well,'' Mickelson said. ''If I do strike it well, I think there's a really low round in there.''
He's winless since the 2013 British Open.
Fowler had five birdies and one bogey before saving par with a 13-foot putt on 18.
Playing partner McIlroy's round didn't end as well.
McIlroy got rolling when he chipped in for eagle from just off the green on the par-5 seventh hole. He followed that with three birdies in the next four holes to get to 4 under for the tournament and looked as if he was going to start a big run. But three bogeys on the back nine stunted his momentum.
''Rory and I definitely enjoy the times we get to play together,'' Fowler said. ''It was fun to kind of get each other going a bit and kind of feed off each other. It would have been nice to get a few more for the both of us.''
Despite the poor finish, McIlroy called it a step in the right direction after going nearly a month without playing competitive golf.
Now McIlroy is hoping to carry a little weekend magic over from last year. He shot 14 under on Saturday and Sunday last year to win by seven strokes.
''If I get off to a fast start (on Saturday), then I'll be right there back in the tournament,'' McIlroy said.
The 27-year-old Loupe has three top-10 finishes this season, but is still looking for his first victory. Despite the lead, he knows there is a lot of work to be done.
''It's halftime,'' Loupe said. ''There's a lot of good golfers right behind me. Just do my best to stay in this very moment.''
For the second straight day, there were some bizarre moments at Quail Hollow Club.
One day after a spectator was escorted from the property by police for tossing a ball with an earplug attached to it at McIlroy and Fowler while they were on the tee box, Zac Blair was disqualified after hitting his head with his putter - and then using the bent club to finish out the hole.
Blair said in a statement he didn't notice the putter was bent until the next hole, at which time he immediately turned himself in by notifying a PGA Tour official of the situation.
''Going forward I'm going to do my best to not let my emotions get in the way out on the golf course,'' Blair said in the statement.
There were some bizarre shots, too.
Jason Kokrak's ball landed in an elevated tent near the 18th green. With tables and chairs on each side of him and fans holding glasses of wine on either side of him, Kokrak chipped off the green artificial grass rug through a small opening ''Tin Cup'' style to 17 feet of the hole before two-putting for bogey. Unlike the fictional Roy McAvoy, Kokrak failed to make the cut.
Jim Furyk, playing in his first tournament in eight months in his return from a wrist injury, also missed the cut with rounds of 73 and 75.
Round 1 - Steve Wheatcroft and Andrew Loupe lead with 65s
May 6, 2016
Steve Wheatcroft and Andrew Loupe each shot 7-under 65 on Thursday in rain and steady wind to share the first-round lead in the Wells Fargo Championship, while Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler dodged a thrown golf ball with an earplug attached to it.
As if battling a lengthy and saturated course wasn't enough, playing partners McIlroy and Fowler endured a bizarre event on the sixth tee box when a spectator hurled the dressed-up golf ball their way as Fowler was preparing to hit.
''So random,'' Fowler said. ''The guy tried to say it was a gift. I don't know why you would give a gift of a golf ball with an earplug attached to it.''
The fan was escorted from the property by police.
''It was one of those things,'' McIlroy said. ''It was a golf ball with an ear plug stuck on it, so it was sort of strange.''
Fowler, the 2012 winner, finished with a 71, leaving him six shots behind Wheatcroft and Loupe, who were also paired together. McIlroy, the only two-time winner of the tournament, shot a 73 after a bogey-plagued start to his title defense. He won by seven shots last year, finishing at 21 under.
India's Anibarn Lahiri was a shot back after a 66.
Phil Mickelson, who has finished in the top five six times in 12 starts at the Wells Fargo Championship but never won, opened with a 69.
''I have been able to play well here over the years, but just haven't been able to breakthrough and get a victory,'' Mickelson said. ''But I will keep knocking on the door and hopefully keep giving myself a chance.''
But the talk of the tournament came after McIlroy hit his tee shot on the green on the 250-yard, par-3 sixth hole. When Fowler stepped up to the tee he saw something fly by his left side, startling him for a moment.
He didn't know what it was until it stopped rolling.
McIlroy wound up with a birdie, while Fowler and the other member of their threesome, Hideki Matsuyama, carded 3s.
The 27-year-old Loupe, who has three top-10 finishes this season, shot 31 on the front nine. Wheatcroft did his work on the four par 5s, playing them in 6 under with two eagles and two birdies.
''Kind of felt like I was trying to keep up the whole time with Steve,'' Loupe said. ''We both had it rolling early. Just solid golf for the most part, just looking to keep that momentum going.''
McIlroy has some work to do to get into contention if he hopes to become the first three-time winner.
He called his first competitive round since the Masters a ''tale of two nines.''
The world's No. 3-ranked player shot a 4-over 40 while starting on the back side, then got things headed in the right direction with four birdies on the front.
''I was sort of still in range mode on the front nine,'' McIlroy said. ''I didn't really have my scoring head on.''
McIlroy, who turned 27 on Wednesday, wasn't pleased with how he played in the soggy conditions but said the strong finish gave him something strong to build on for Friday.
''I need to go out and shoot a good round, something in the 60s, and get myself back into the tournament going into the weekend,'' said McIlroy, who has spent the last three weeks working to fix his swing.
Jim Furyk shot a 73 in his return from an eight-month layoff because of a wrist injury.
Furyk had ''no pain, no apprehension,'' but said he wasn't planning to hit many practice balls after the round - which didn't exactly upset him.
''I don't enjoy hitting balls, so actually it's kind of fun,'' Furyk said. ''I'm not really allowed to or can't, so I'm enjoying that part of it.''
Top-ranked Jason Day and No. 2 Jordan Spieth did not enter the event, and No. 8 Dustin Johnson withdrew earlier in the week because of unspecified reasons.