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News and notes from first round of Transitions Championship

Austin not happy with poor finish

PALM HARBOR — Tampa native Woody Austin liked the way his day started Thursday, but he wound up miffed over a missed opportunity.

The man who has made the cut on the Copperhead course in all seven tries found himself at 4 under after 15 holes only to finish at 2-under 69 after bogeying the 16th and 17th holes and parring the 18th.

"It was just a terrible finish, so I'm pretty p- - - - - off at myself, but under par on this golf course is good, so I like that," he said. "But when you have a chance to shoot a low score on this course, you can't throw it away like that."

What went wrong?

"Well, 16 is a tough driving hole — I hit a bad drive, and I just didn't hit a great chip," said Austin, 45. "My short game's been letting me down. On 17, I hit the shot I was supposed to hit, right in the middle of the green, and (then) I three-putt."

Still, the Chamberlain High graduate who now lives in Kansas welcomes the chance to play in his old back yard. "It's always nice to come home," he said. "I love Bermuda grass, since I grew up on it. I can't stand California and the poa annua. Unfortunately, that's where the year starts. And I can't practice at home, either, in Wichita because it's too cold."

Austin will feel some extra warmth today courtesy of his hometown contingent: "I still have my circle of friends from here," he said. "I'll have quite a few of them here."

Although he's on track to make it 8-for-8 in cuts, his best finish is 31st at Innisbrook. "I've never contended," he said. "It's nice that I know how to play the course, but I've never played well. And today I had a chance and I threw it away."

Teen idol

Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old trailed by a large Japanese media contingent, finished at 69, his first round in the 60s on the PGA Tour. By comparison, he shot 73 in his PGA debut at the Northern Trust Open last month in Los Angeles. "At Northern Trust, I was very nervous," he said through an interpreter. "(Here), about half as nervous, so about the same as when I play Japan Golf Tour events."

Repairs on the run

In a secluded nook beside the course, the jet-black TaylorMade trailer is ready for action this week. Inside the new 18-wheeler, three technicians are busy repairing drivers, adding new grips and manufacturing complete sets of clubs. It's the ultimate in on-the-spot service, complete with a small office, one work bench for drivers and woods, one for irons and wedges and one for everything else. "We're a movable, mobile workshop," said Wade Liles, 41, who helps drive the truck from event to event with Henry Luna, 35. "We can build a set of irons in about 30 minutes. We can build drivers in about five. We can add a whole new set of grips in 25." In addition to emergency repairs, they peddle new products — such as the R9 driver that can adjust in various settings and weights. "We're pretty much like a pit crew for the pros out here," Liles said.

Around the course

Fred Funk, 52, hoping to continue his comeback after knee surgery, dropped out after shooting 7-over 78. There was no reason given. … Colt Knost went home to Texas on Wednesday, apparently thinking he wouldn't qualify for the field. A spot opened Thursday when David Berganio withdrew. The opening went to Derek Fathauer, 23. The Jensen Beach native shot 76. … Stephen Ames, the 2006 Players Championship winner, shot 66 with the help of six birdies. … The tour stop in Memphis will be known as the St. Jude Classic for 2009, dropping its reference to the Stanford Financial Group, which is under federal investigation for investment and securities fraud.

Dave Scheiber, Times staff writer

News and notes from first round of Transitions Championship 03/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 9:12pm]
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