Golf

Karlsson, Stadler tied in Mexico

Robert Karlsson
Robert Karlsson stands at 12-under and is tied for the lead with Kevin Stadler.
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PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico

There was a rumor of sunshine poking through the rain clouds at El Camaleon Golf Club on Friday. That bright yellow ball in the sky hung around long enough to complete the first round of the OHL Classic and for 29 players to finish the second. Robert Karlsson, who squeezed in 36 just before darkness, and Kevin Stadler, who managed 34 holes, share the lead at 12-under 130. Here are 5 Things You Need to Know from Friday.

1. Karlsson Continues Comeback: Robert Karlsson shot a sizzling 8-under 63 in the morning and never cooled off, posting a 4-under 67 in the afternoon. Karlsson, a 44-year-old from Sweden, lost his PGA Tour status after finishing No. 156 in the FedEx Cup standings. But he parlayed a sponsor’s exemption for the McGladrey Classic into a top-10 — coincidentally, he owes his finish to Stadler three-putting the final hole at McGladrey — into another start this week in Mexico. Karlsson canceled plans to go to South Africa, flew here Tuesday, and squeezed in a quick 18 in semi-darkness to get acquainted with the course.

Karlsson intends to play on the European Tour, where he is fully exempt thanks to winning the Order of Merit in 2008.

“They gave me 10 years,” he said with a wink and a smile. “I was the last one.”

But playing status is the least of his concerns, he said.

“After being through what I’ve been through, I don’t care what kind of status I have,” Karlsson said. “As long as I can play golf tournaments and I can play in Europe, the most important thing is to just build good habits. If I do that I will be fine and if I don’t play well, it won’t matter what status I have because I won’t be playing the weekends anyway.”

It’s been well documented how Karlsson suffered a case of the dreaded swing yips. With time and repetition, he has made great strides. He and his instructor, Mark Blackburn, have been studying old tapes of his swing from the 2008 season, including the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, when he played his best golf. They discovered that his swing had become too flat for someone of his height. The rebuilding process began in earnest after he withdrew from the 2012 British Open.

“It feels like it was five years ago,” he said.

Karlsson turned philosophical when discussing the travails of no longer being able to do something that once came so naturally to him.

“Life is up and down, isn’t it?” he said. “Sometimes everything seems easy and sometimes it seems impossible.”

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Here’s the good news for Karlsson: “It feels possible again,” he said, “and it has felt that way for a while, probably 6-8 weeks.”

2. Stadler Stalking a Date at Augusta: Kevin Stadler admitted he’s had Georgia on his mind before. Just last week, for instance, he played in the final group on Sunday at the McGladrey Classic and started thinking about what it would be like if he won and earned a coveted Masters invite. The soft-spoken baby Walrus brightens at the thought of playing a practice round at Augusta National with his dad, Craig, the 1982 champion.

“It's not anything I thought about while I'm playing, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about it on Saturday night,” Kevin said.

Stadler shot 71 in the final round last week and finished in the top 10. But after shooting 67-63, Stadler is poised to have a shot at capturing his first Tour title in his 237th start. He benefited from a lucky break on No. 17 when his putt from off the green smashed into the flagstick and dropped for birdie.

“I got away with murder there,” he said.

Stadler said he has attended the Masters as a spectator on several occasions, but played Augusta National only once when he was 18 or 19.

“It was my freshman year in college,” he said of the January round. “It was cold and wet and gnarly. It played incredibly long, but it was still a lot of fun.”

He also hopped into the white caddie’s jumpsuit and looped for his dad at the Par-3 contest when he was 12 or 13. Now, if he could just drive down Magnolia Lane as a contestant.

“It's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen, but I'd love to get the chance to play while my dad is still playing,” he said. “That would be pretty cool.”

3. Duval Returns to Old Faithful Putter: David Duval went back to a once trusty putter and poured in seven birdies to shoot an opening round 4-under 67 at the OHL Classic.

After brooding over a balky putter last week at the McGladrey Classic and wondering about his stroke on the greens, Duval switched back to the Scotty Cameron by Titleist Newport putter he said he’s used for the better part of 16 years.

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“I figured I’d live and die with it,” he said.

He took 27 putts and finished off the first round with back-to-back birdies for his lowest opening round since he shot 66 at the 2011 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Duval is 2-over through 14 holes of his second round and battling to make his first cut of the 2013-14 season after only making one in eight starts in 2013. Duval hasn’t finished better than T-60 in his last two years.

4. Weathering the Weather Delays: On Friday, the weather cooperated a lot better. Credit goes to the El Camaleon Golf Club superintendent’s crew for getting the course in playing condition after more than four inches of rain doused the course since Wednesday afternoon. The first and second rounds utilized preferred lies in closely-mown areas.

The second round was completed at 12:57 p.m. Play was suspended for 26 minutes at 2:59 p.m., during the second round, and play was suspended due to darkness at 5:02 p.m. (all local time)

5. SHORT SHOTS: Monday qualifier Jay McLuen is in great shape to make his first cut in his second career Tour start. McLuen, who last played on the Web.com Tour in 2010, is 8-under through 14 holes and T-5. … Ryan Moore continued his strong start to the season with a second straight 67. He’s projected to lead the FedEx Cup points race through six events before the Tour goes on hiatus until January. … Overnight leader Brian Stuard (6-under) never teed off in his second round. He is scheduled to begin at 7:15 a.m. … Jim Herman withdrew after the first round after learning that his wife went into labor.

Tagged: David Duval, Kevin Stadler, Robert Karlsson

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