Saturday, June 5, 2004

Course confounds Flesch


Though Kentuckian says being a lefty isn't why he struggles

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DUBLIN, Ohio - It has nothing to do with Muirfield being a tough course for lefties, Steve Flesch said. He just doesn't play well here.

He doesn't know why.

Well, we've heard that before, usually at Augusta, and that really didn't change until last year, when Mike Weir won there, and this year, when Phil Mickelson validated it with a Masters win of his own.

But do you notice who isn't here at the Memorial Tournament in this otherwise star-studded field?

Southpaws Weir and Mickelson.

"I've never played that great here," said lefty Flesch, who shot a 1-over 73 Friday to put him at 145, eight strokes off the lead. "If I continue to play this poorly here, I might not come back. It might be a good week to skip."

And one could tell it hurt Flesch to say that. He's a Northern Kentuckian and he came here as a kid to watch this tournament.

"Yes, I do hate to say that," Flesch said. "But if I'm not going to play well up here, I'd rather not play. No offense to anybody. ... But I'm glad I made the cut for the hometown people."

He said he has played decently here only about two out of seven times.

Flesch played well enough to make the cut, which was 4-over 148, so he won't be going home to Union, Ky., this weekend or to Cincinnati to see the Reds.

"Did they win (Thursday) night?" he asked.

Told it was an off day, he said, "I'm excited" about the Reds being in first place.

"Especially with the new stadium, we need to put some bodies in there," he said.

LOVELY LEADERS: The lead means nothing after two rounds - "unless it's about six strokes," Ernie Els said - which has to give pause to one-stroke leaders Justin Rose, Ben Curtis and Stephen Ames.

Among the big names one stroke behind are Els and Fred Couples; three back is Tiger Woods, who has won here three times.

Curtis, 27, the Columbus native who graduated from Kent State, said he had two good rounds at the MCI Heritage in mid-April, but it was mostly luck.

"I chipped in three or four times on Thursday and Friday. On the weekend, I kind of woke up and went back to the old way," he said.

"... I think if I can keep it more consistent, like (Friday) just having no bogeys, I'll be OK."

Rose, a 23-year-old Brit, was looking at a three-stroke lead until he double-bogeyed No. 18.

His fans can only hope it wasn't a harbinger. At the Masters, he led after two rounds but wasn't heard from again after posting an 81 on Day 3.

"I learned that halfway is nowhere near," he said. "You've got to stay patient, play shot for shot. Thinking about winning is irrelevant, really."

It's an international field, and an international leaderboard, even among the no-names, such as 40-year-old Stephen Ames, born in Trinidad, schooled in Boca Raton, Fla., and a resident of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

"At MCI this year, I was one shot off the lead and ended up third on the last day," Ames said. "I thought I handled (the MCI) well. I had to make sure I was committed to the club I wanted to hit. ... I'm just going to go out and do the same thing here that I've done the last two days - pick my club, get up there, commit to the line and commit to the shot."

E-mail jerardi@enquirer.com




REDS
Momentum shattered
Miley: Put end to talk on contract
Harang lands on 15-day DL
Day puts on show for fan club

MORE BASEBALL
AL: Yankees sock six homers vs. Rangers
McClendon, LaRussa suspended for confrontation
NL: Mixed news: Prior great, Cubs lose

BENGALS
Carter welcomes QB competition
Moving Hardy a good move for all

PREP SPORTS
Brossart girls in position to take back team title
Surkamp eager to lead Moeller
Gillespie named Winton Woods boys' basketball coach
Milford falls to Toledo in semifinals
Prep results, schedule

HORSE RACING
A race for the ages
Rain could factor in run at Triple Crown
Win gives Smarty record earnings

GOLF
Couples battles extremes
Course confounds Flesch

NBA
The 'Not-quite-so-Bad Boys'

TENNIS
Coria rallies to derail Henman's surprising run

OTHER SPORTS
Bhardwaj coming on strong
Sports today on TV, radio
Hopkins re-enters the fray